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Social class, family background, and intergenerational mobility

  • McIntosh, James
  • Munk, Martin D.

This research examines the various approaches taken by economists and sociologists for analyzing intergenerational mobility. Social mobility models based on social classes arising from an occupational classification scheme are analysed. A test for the statistical validity of classification schemes is proposed and tested using Danish sample survey data that was first collected in 1976 and augmented in 2000. This is referred to as a homogeneity test and is a likelihood ratio test of a set of linear restrictions which define social classes. For Denmark it is shown that this test fails for an Erikson-Goldthorpe classification system, raising doubts about the statistical validity of occupational classification systems in general. We also estimate regression models of occupational earnings, household earnings, and educational attainment using family background variables as covariates controlling for unobservables, measurement error, and simultaneous equation bias. In these models homogeneity tests are also rejected. We conclude from these results that the individual's family background has a small but significant impact on lifetime chances which is not captured by the Erikson-Goldthorpe classification scheme.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal European Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 53 (2009)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 107-117

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Handle: RePEc:eee:eecrev:v:53:y:2009:i:1:p:107-117
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  1. Robert Erikson & John H. Goldthorpe, 2002. "Intergenerational Inequality: A Sociological Perspective," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 31-44, Summer.
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  3. Bjorklund, Anders & Jantti, Markus, 1997. "Intergenerational Income Mobility in Sweden Compared to the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 1009-18, December.
  4. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 1998. "Life Cycle Schooling and Dynamic Selection Bias: Models and Evidence for Five Cohorts of American Males," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(2), pages 262-333, April.
  5. Becker, Gary S & Tomes, Nigel, 1986. "Human Capital and the Rise and Fall of Families," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(3), pages S1-39, July.
  6. Feinstein, Leon & Symons, James, 1999. "Attainment in Secondary School," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(2), pages 300-321, April.
  7. Solon, Gary, 1999. "Intergenerational mobility in the labor market," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 29, pages 1761-1800 Elsevier.
  8. Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, 2002. "The Inheritance of Inequality," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 3-30, Summer.
  9. Anders Björklund & Markus Jäntti, 2000. "Intergenerational mobility of socio-economic status in comparative perspective," Nordic Journal of Political Economy, Nordic Journal of Political Economy, vol. 26, pages 3-32.
  10. Dearden, Lorraine & Machin, Stephen & Reed, Howard, 1997. "Intergenerational Mobility in Britain," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(440), pages 47-66, January.
  11. Melissa Osborne & Herbert Gintis & Samuel Bowles, 2001. "The Determinants of Earnings: A Behavioral Approach," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(4), pages 1137-1176, December.
  12. 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).
  13. Piketty, Thomas, 2000. "Theories of persistent inequality and intergenerational mobility," Handbook of Income Distribution, in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 8, pages 429-476 Elsevier.
  14. Raaum, Oddbjørn & Bratsberg, Bernt & Røed, Knut & Österbacka , Eva & Eriksson, Tor & Jäntti, Markus & Naylor, Robin, 2007. "Marital Sorting, Household Labor Supply, and Intergenerational Earnings Mobility across Countries," Memorandum 17/2007, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
  15. Bhashkar Mazumder, 2005. "Fortunate Sons: New Estimates of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States Using Social Security Earnings Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(2), pages 235-255, May.
  16. Zimmerman, David J, 1992. "Regression toward Mediocrity in Economic Stature," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 409-29, June.
  17. Grawe, Nathan D., 2006. "Lifecycle bias in estimates of intergenerational earnings persistence," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(5), pages 551-570, October.
  18. James McIntosh & Martin Munk, 2007. "Scholastic ability vs family background in educational success: evidence from Danish sample survey data," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 20(1), pages 101-120, February.
  19. Miles Corak & Andrew Heisz, 1998. "The Intergenerational Earnings and Income Mobility of Canadian," Labor and Demography 9808001, EconWPA.
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