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Intergenerational Mobility and the Informative Content of Surnames

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

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 sufficient. 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 finding 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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  • Güell, Maia & Mora, José V Rodríguez & Telmer, Chris, 2007. "Intergenerational Mobility and the Informative Content of Surnames," CEPR Discussion Papers 6316, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:6316
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    Cited by:

    1. Romeu, Andrés & Collado, M. Dolores & Ortuño Ortin, Ignacio, 2013. "Long-run intergenerational social mobility and the distribution of surnames," UMUFAE Economics Working Papers 36768, DIGITUM. Universidad de Murcia.
    2. Michele Raitano & Francesco Vona, 2015. "Measuring the link between intergenerational occupational mobility and earnings: evidence from eight European countries," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 13(1), pages 83-102, March.
    3. Clark, Gregory & Cummins, Neil & Hao, Yu & Vidal, Dan Diaz, 2015. "Surnames: A new source for the history of social mobility," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 3-24.
    4. Yona Rubinstein & Dror Brenner, 2014. "Pride and Prejudice: Using Ethnic-Sounding Names and Inter-Ethnic Marriages to Identify Labour Market Discrimination," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 81(1), pages 389-425.
    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. Michele Raitano & Francesco Vona, 2015. "Direct and Indirect Influences of Parental Background on Children's Earnings: a Comparison across Countries and Genders," Manchester School, University of Manchester, vol. 83(4), pages 423-450, July.
    7. Zhi Li & Hai Zhong, 2017. "The impact of higher education expansion on intergenerational mobility," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 25(4), pages 575-591, October.
    8. Olivetti, Claudia & Paserman, M. Daniele, 2013. "In the Name of the Son (and the Daughter): Intergenerational Mobility in the United States, 1850-1930," CEPR Discussion Papers 9372, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Durante, Ruben & Labartino, Giovanna & Perotti, Roberto, 2011. "Academic Dynasties: Decentralization and Familism in the Italian Academia," CEPR Discussion Papers 8645, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    10. Ruben Durante & Giovanna Labartino & Roberto Perotti, 2011. "Academic Dynasties: Decentralization and familism ind the Italian academia," Working Papers hal-03609936, HAL.
    11. Ruben Durante & Giovanna Labartino & Roberto Perotti, 2011. "Academic Dynasties: Decentralization and familism ind the Italian academia," SciencePo Working papers hal-03609936, HAL.
    12. María Cervini-Plá, 2015. "Intergenerational Earnings and Income Mobility in Spain," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 61(4), pages 812-828, December.
    13. Angelucci Manuela & De Giorgi Giacomo & Rangel Marcos & Rasul Imran, 2009. "Village Economies and the Structure of Extended Family Networks," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 9(1), pages 1-46, October.
    14. Paweł Bukowski & Gregory Clark & Attila Gáspár & Rita Pető, 2022. "Social Mobility and Political Regimes: Intergenerational Mobility in Hungary, 1949–2017," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 35(4), pages 1551-1588, October.
    15. Raitano Michele & Vona Francesco, 2018. "From the Cradle to the Grave: The Influence of Family Background on the Career Path of Italian Men," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 80(6), pages 1062-1088, December.
    16. Maia Güell & José V. Rodríguez Mora & Christopher I. Telmer, 2015. "The Informational Content of Surnames, the Evolution of Intergenerational Mobility, and Assortative Mating," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(2), pages 693-735.
    17. Gregory Clark, 2011. "Was there ever a ruling class? Social and economic mobility in England, 1200-2010," Working Papers 11037, Economic History Society.
    18. Jurajda, Stepán & Münich, Daniel, 2010. "Admission to selective schools, alphabetically," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 1100-1109, December.
    19. Giovanni Abramo & Ciriaco Andrea D’Angelo & Francesco Rosati, 2015. "The determinants of academic career advancement: Evidence from Italy," Science and Public Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 42(6), pages 761-774.
    20. Ruben Durante & Giovanna Labartino & Roberto Perotti, 2011. "Academic Dynasties: Decentralization and familism ind the Italian academia," Sciences Po publications 17572, Sciences Po.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    birth-death processes; cross-sectional data; inheritance; population genetics;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C31 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models; Treatment Effect Models; Quantile Regressions; Social Interaction Models
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics

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