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Like Brother, Like Sister? The Importance of Family Background for Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Skills

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  • Anger, Silke
  • Schnitzlein, Daniel D.

Abstract

This paper estimates sibling correlations in cognitive skills and non-cognitive skills to evaluate the importance of family background for skill formation. The study is based on a large representative German dataset, which includes IQ test scores and measures of personality (locus of control, reciprocity, Big Five) for brothers and sisters. Using a Restricted Maximum Likelihood (REML) model we find substantial influences of family background on the skills of both brothers and sisters. Sibling correlations of personality traits range from 0.24 to 0.59, indicating that even for the lowest estimate, one fourth of the variance can be attributed to factors shared by siblings. With one exception, all calculated sibling correlations in cognitive skills are higher than 0.50, indicating that more than half of the inequality can be explained by family characteristics. Comparing these findings to the results in the intergenerational skill transmission literature suggests that intergenerational correlations are only able to capture parts of the influence of the family on children s cognitive and non-cognitive skills. This result is in line with findings in the literature on educational and income mobility. --

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Paper provided by Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association in its series Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order with number 80052.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:vfsc13:80052

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Web page: http://www.socialpolitik.org/
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  1. Susan E. Mayer & Greg Duncan & Ariel Kalil, 2004. "Like Mother, Like Daughter? SES and the Intergenerational correlation of Traits, Behaviors and Attitudes," Working Papers, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago 0415, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  2. Cobb-Clark, Deborah & Schurer, Stefanie, 2011. "The stability of big-five personality traits," Working Paper Series, Victoria University of Wellington, School of Economics and Finance 1834, Victoria University of Wellington, School of Economics and Finance.
  3. Agee, Mark D & Crocker, Thomas D, 2002. "Parents' Discount Rate and the Intergenerational Transmission of Cognitive Skills," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 69(273), pages 143-54, February.
  4. Björklund, Anders & Jäntti, Markus, 2012. "How important is family background for labor-economic outcomes?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 465-474.
  5. Björklund, Anders & Eriksson, Tor & Jäntti, Markus & Raaum, Oddbjørn & Österbacka, Eva, 2000. "Brother Correlations in Earnings in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden Compared to the United States," IZA Discussion Papers 158, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Guido Heineck & Silke Anger, 2008. "The Returns to Cognitive Abilities and Personality Traits in Germany," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 836, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  7. Sarah Brown & Steven Mcintosh & Karl Taylor, 2011. "Following in Your Parents’ Footsteps? Empirical Analysis of Matched Parent–Offspring Test Scores," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 73(1), pages 40-58, 02.
  8. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 411-482, July.
  9. Solon, Gary, 1999. "Intergenerational mobility in the labor market," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 29, pages 1761-1800 Elsevier.
  10. Silke Anger & Guido Heineck, 2009. "Do Smart Parents Raise Smart Children?: The Intergenerational Transmission of Cognitive Abilities," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 156, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  11. Black, Sandra E. & Devereux, Paul J. & Salvanes, Kjell G., 2008. "Like Father, Like Son? A Note on the Intergenerational Transmission of IQ Scores," IZA Discussion Papers 3651, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  12. Gary Solon & Mary Corcoran & GRoger Gordon & Deborah Laren, 1991. "A Longitudinal Analysis of Sibling Correlations in Economic Status," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 26(3), pages 509-534.
  13. Grönqvist, Erik & Öckert, Björn & Vlachos, Jonas, 2010. "The intergenerational transmission of cognitive and non-cognitive abilities," Working Paper Series, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy 2010:12, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
  14. Zimmerman, David J, 1992. "Regression toward Mediocrity in Economic Stature," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 409-29, June.
  15. Gert G. Wagner & Joachim R. Frick & Jürgen Schupp, 2007. "The German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP) – Scope, Evolution and Enhancements," Schmollers Jahrbuch : Journal of Applied Social Science Studies / Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 127(1), pages 139-169.
  16. Björklund Anders & Lindahl Lena & Lindquist Matthew J., 2010. "What More Than Parental Income, Education and Occupation? An Exploration of What Swedish Siblings Get from Their Parents," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, De Gruyter, vol. 10(1), pages 1-40, November.
  17. Bhashkar Mazumder, 2008. "Sibling similarities and economic inequality in the US," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, Springer, vol. 21(3), pages 685-701, July.
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