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Intergenerational Mobility and the Informative Content of Surnames

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Abstract

We propose a new methodology for measuring intergenerational mobility in economic wellbeing. Our method is based on the joint distribution of surnames and economic outcomes. It circumvents the need for intergenerational panel data, a long-standing stumbling block for understanding mobility. A single cross-sectional dataset is sucient. Our main idea is simple. If `inheritance' is important for economic outcomes, then rare surnames should predict economic outcomes in the cross-section. This is because rare surnames are indicative of familial linkages. Of course, if the number of rare surnames is small, this won't work. But rare surnames are abundant in the highly-skewed nature of surname distributions from most Western societies. We develop a model that articulates this idea and shows that the more important is inheritance, the more informative will be surnames. This result is robust to a variety of different assumptions about fertility and mating. We apply our method using the 2001 census from Catalonia, a large region of Spain. We use educational attainment as a proxy for overall economic well-being. Our main nding is that mobility has decreased among the different generations of the 20th century. A complementary analysis based on sibling correlations confirms our results and provides a robustness check on our method. Our model and our data allow us to examine one possible explanation for the observed decrease in mobility. We find that the degree of assortative mating has increased over time. Overall, we argue that our method has promise because it can tap the vast mines of census data that are available in a heretofore unexploited manner.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh in its series ESE Discussion Papers with number 229.

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Length: 50
Date of creation: 30 Oct 2013
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Handle: RePEc:edn:esedps:229

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Keywords: Surnames; intergenerational mobility; cross-sectional data analysis; population genetics; assortative mating; siblings;

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Cited by:
  1. Angelucci, Manuela & De Giorgi, Giacomo & Rangel, Marcos A. & Rasul, Imran, 2009. "Village Economies and the Structure of Extended Family Networks," CEPR Discussion Papers 7496, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  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. 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.
  4. Jurajda, Stepan & Münich, Daniel, 2006. "Admission to Selective Schools, Alphabetically," CEPR Discussion Papers 5427, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. John Hassler & José Rodríguez Mora & Joseph Zeira, 2007. "Inequality and mobility," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 12(3), pages 235-259, September.
  6. 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.
  7. Cervini-Plá, María, 2011. "Intergenerational earnings and income mobility in Spain," MPRA Paper 34942, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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