IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Lineages of Scholars in pre-industrial Europe: Nepotism vs Intergenerational Human Capital Transmission


  • David de la Croix

    () (UNIVERSITE CATHOLIQUE DE LOUVAIN, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES))

  • Marc Goni

    () (Department of Economics, University of Vienna)


We propose a new methodology to disentangle two determinants of intergenerational persistence: inherited human capital vs. nepotism. This requires jointly addressing measurement error in human-capital proxies and the selection bias inherent to nepotism. We do so by exploiting standard multi-generation correlations together with distributional differences across generations in the same occupation. These two moments identify the structural parameters of a first-order Markov process of human-capital endowments' transmission, extended to account for nepotism. We apply our method to a newly built database of more than one thousand scholar lineages in higher education institutions over the period 1000-1800. Our results show that 14 percent of scholar's sons were nepotic scholars. Nepotism declined during the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, was more prominent in Catholic than in Protestant institutions, and was higher in law than in sciences. Human-capital endowments were inherited with an intergenerational elasticity of 0.59, higher than suggested by parent-child elasticities in observed outcomes (publications), yet lower than recent estimates in the literature (0.75) which do not account for nepotism.

Suggested Citation

  • David de la Croix & Marc Goni, 2020. "Lineages of Scholars in pre-industrial Europe: Nepotism vs Intergenerational Human Capital Transmission," LIDAM Discussion Papers IRES 2020006, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
  • Handle: RePEc:ctl:louvir:2020006

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item


    Intergenerational mobility; human capital transmission; nepotism; university scholars; upper-tail human capital; pre-industrial Europe;

    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

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ctl:louvir:2020006. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Virginie LEBLANC). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.