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Human Capital and the Rise and Fall of Families

  • Gary S. Becker
  • Nigel Tomes
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This paper develops a model of the transmission of earnings, assets, and consumption from parents to descendants. The model assumes utility-maximizing parents who are concerned about the welfare of their children. The degree of intergenerational mobility is determined by the interaction of this utility-maximizing behavior with investment and consumption opportunities in different gene rations and with different kinds of luck. The authors examine a number of empirical studies for different countries. Regression to the mean in earnings in rich countries appears to be rapid. Almost all the earnings advantages or disadvantages of ancestors are wiped out in three generations. Copyright 1986 by University of Chicago Press.

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Paper provided by Chicago - Population Research Center in its series University of Chicago - Population Research Center with number 84-10.

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Publication status: Published in Journal of Labor Economics, v. 4, no. 3, Part 2 (July 1986): S1-S39
Handle: RePEc:fth:chiprc:84-10
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University of Chicago. Population Research Center. NORC and the University of Chicago. 1155 E. 60th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60637.

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  1. Loury, Glenn C, 1981. "Intergenerational Transfers and the Distribution of Earnings," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(4), pages 843-67, June.
  2. Bowles, Samuel, 1972. "Schooling and Inequality from Generation to Generation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(3), pages S219-S51, Part II, .
  3. Menchik, Paul L, 1979. "Inter-generational Transmission of Inequality: An Empirical Study of Wealth Mobility," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 46(184), pages 349-62, November.
  4. Judith Blake, 1981. "Family size and the quality of children," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 18(4), pages 421-442, November.
  5. Drazen, Allan, 1978. "Government Debt, Human Capital, and Bequests in a Life-Cycle Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(3), pages 505-16, June.
  6. Benoit Mandelbrot, 1962. "Paretian Distributions and Income Maximization," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(1), pages 57-85.
  7. de Wolff, P. & van Slijpe, A. R. D., 1973. "The relation between income, intelligence, education and social background," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 4(3), pages 235-264, October.
  8. Pryor, Frederic L, 1973. "Simulation of the Impact of Social and Economic Institutions on the Size Distribution of Income and Wealth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(1), pages 50-72, March.
  9. Ehrlich, Isaac & Ben-Zion, Uri, 1976. "Asset Management, Allocation of Time, and Returns to Saving," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 14(4), pages 558-86, December.
  10. Gary S. Becker & Robert J. Barro, 1988. "A Reformulation of the Economic Theory of Fertility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 103(1), pages 1-25.
  11. Tinbergen, Jan, 1970. "A Positive and a Normative Theory of Income Distribution," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 16(3), pages 221-34, September.
  12. William T. Bielby & Robert M. Hauser, 1977. "Response Error in Earnings Functions for Nonblack Males," Sociological Methods & Research, SAGE Publishing, vol. 6(2), pages 241-280, November.
  13. Behrman, Jere R & Taubman, Paul, 1976. "Intergenerational Transmission of Income and Wealth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 66(2), pages 436-40, May.
  14. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1967. "Distribution of Income and Wealth Among Individuals," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 238, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  15. Kotlikoff, Laurence J & Shoven, John & Spivak, Avia, 1986. "The Effect of Annuity Insurance and Savings and Inequality," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(3), pages S183-207, July.
  16. Tomes, Nigel, 1981. "The Family, Inheritance, and the Intergenerational Transmission of Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 928-58, October.
  17. Luigi L. Pasinetti, 1962. "Rate of Profit and Income Distribution in Relation to the Rate of Economic Growth," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(4), pages 267-279.
  18. Peltzman, Sam, 1973. "The Effect of Government Subsidies-in-Kind on Private Expenditures: The Case of Higher Education," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(1), pages 1-27, Jan.-Feb..
  19. Conlisk, John, 1974. "Can Equalization of Opportunity Reduce Social Mobility?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(1), pages 80-90, March.
  20. Lee A. Lillard & Robert J. Willis, 1976. "Dynamic Aspects of Earnings Mobility," NBER Working Papers 0150, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Becker, Gary S & Tomes, Nigel, 1976. "Child Endowments and the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(4), pages S143-62, August.
  22. Bevan, D L, 1979. "Inheritance and the Distribution of Wealth," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 46(184), pages 381-402, November.
  23. Smith, James P, 1984. "Race and Human Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(4), pages 685-98, September.
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