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Intergenerational Mobility and the Informative Content of Surnames

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  • Maia Güell
  • José V. Rodríguez Mora
  • Chris Telmer

Abstract

We propose an alternative method for measuring intergenerational mobility. Traditional methods based on panel data provide measurements that are scarce, difficult to compare across countries and almost impossible to get across time. In particular this means that we do not know how intergenerational mobility is correlated with growth, income or the degree of inequality. Our proposal is to measure the informative content of surnames in one census. The more information does the surname have on the income of an individual, the more important is background in determining outcomes; and thus, the less mobility there is. The reason for this is that surnames inform on family relationships because the distribution of surnames is necessarily much skewed. A large percentage of the population is bound to have a very unfrequent surname. For them the partition generated by surnames is very informative on family linkages. First, we develop a model whose endogenous variable is the joint distribution of surnames and income. Then we explore the relationship between mobility and the informative content of surnames. We allow for assortative mating to be a determinant of both. Then, we use our methodology to show that in a large Spanish region the informative content of surnames is large and consistent with the model. We also show that it has increased over time, indicating a substantial drop in the degree of mobility. Finally, using the peculiarities of the Spanish surname convention we show that the degree of assortative mating has also increased over time, in such a manner that might explain the decrease in mobility observed. Our method allows us to provide measures of mobility comparable across time. It should also allow us to study other issues related to inheritance.

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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp0810.

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Date of creation: Jul 2007
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Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0810

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Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEP

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Keywords: inheritance; birth-death processes; cross-sectional data; population genetics;

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Cited by:
  1. John Hassler & José Rodríguez Mora & Joseph Zeira, 2007. "Inequality and mobility," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 12(3), pages 235-259, September.
  2. Dror Brenner & Yona Rubinstein, 2012. "Pride and prejudice: using ethnic-sounding names and inter-ethnic marriages to identify labor market discrimination," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 48932, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  3. Dror Brenner & Yona Rubinstein, 2012. "Pride and Prejudice: Using Ethnic-Sounding Names and Inter-Ethnic Marriages to Identify Labor Market Discrimination," CEP Discussion Papers dp1180, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  4. Stepan Jurajda & Daniel Munich, 2005. "Admission to Selective Schools, Alphabetically," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp282, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economic Institute, Prague.
  5. Manuela Angelucci & Giacomo de Giorgi & Marcos A Rangel & Imran Rasul, 2009. "VIllage Economics and the Structure of Extended Family Networks," Working Papers id:2301, eSocialSciences.
  6. Cervini-Plá, María, 2011. "Intergenerational earnings and income mobility in Spain," MPRA Paper 34942, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  7. Ruben Durante & Giovanna Labartino & Roberto Perotti, 2011. "Academic Dynasties: Decentralization and Familism in the Italian Academia," NBER Working Papers 17572, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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