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Intergenerational mobility and the informative content of surnames

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  • Guell, Maia
  • Rodriguez Mora, Jose V.
  • Telmer, Chris

Abstract

We propose an alternative method for measuring intergenerational mobility. Traditional methods based on panel data provide measurements that are scarce, difficult to compare across countries and almost impossible to get across time. In particular this means that we do not know how intergenerational mobility is correlated with growth, income or the degree of inequality. Our proposal is to measure the informative content of surnames in one census. The more information does the surname have on the income of an individual, the more important is background in determining outcomes; and thus, the less mobility there is. The reason for this is that surnames inform on family relationships because the distribution of surnames is necessarily much skewed. A large percentage of the population is bound to have a very unfrequent surname. For them the partition generated by surnames is very informative on family linkages. First, we develop a model whose endogenous variable is the joint distribution of surnames and income. Then we explore the relationship between mobility and the informative content of surnames. We allow for assortative mating to be a determinant of both. Then, we use our methodology to show that in a large Spanish region the informative content of surnames is large and consistent with the model. We also show that it has increased over time, indicating a substantial drop in the degree of mobility. Finally, using the peculiarities of the Spanish surname convention we show that the degree of assortative mating has also increased over time, in such a manner that might explain the decrease in mobility observed. Our method allows us to provide measures of mobility comparable across time. It should also allow us to study other issues related to inheritance.

Suggested Citation

  • Guell, Maia & Rodriguez Mora, Jose V. & Telmer, Chris, 2007. "Intergenerational mobility and the informative content of surnames," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19701, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:19701
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    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. Jurajda, Stepán & Münich, Daniel, 2010. "Admission to selective schools, alphabetically," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 1100-1109, December.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. John Hassler & José Rodríguez Mora & Joseph Zeira, 2007. "Inequality and mobility," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 12(3), pages 235-259, September.
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    inheritance; birth-death processes; cross-sectional data; population genetics;

    JEL classification:

    • 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
    • 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

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