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Has the Intergenerational Transmission of Economic Status Changed?


  • Susan E. Mayer
  • Leonard M. Lopoo


The elasticity of children’s economic status with respect to parents’ economic status is often taken as an indicator of the extent of equality of opportunity. While many studies have estimated the elasticity for the United States and other countries, only a few have tried to estimate the trend in the elasticity. These studies produce conflicting results. When we use the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to estimate the trend in the elasticity of son’s income with respect to parental income, we find no statistically significant trend in the elasticity for sons born between 1949 and 1965. However, our evidence suggests a non-linear trend in which the elasticity increased for sons born between 1949 and 1953, then declined for sons born after that. Thus depending on the time periods one chooses to compare, the trend could be upward, downward or flat. This and other factors help account for different estimates of the trend in economic mobility across studies.

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  • Susan E. Mayer & Leonard M. Lopoo, 2004. "Has the Intergenerational Transmission of Economic Status Changed?," Working Papers 0414, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  • Handle: RePEc:har:wpaper:0414

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lawrence F. Katz & Kevin M. Murphy, 1992. "Changes in Relative Wages, 1963–1987: Supply and Demand Factors," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 35-78.
    2. John Fitzgerald & Peter Gottschalk & Robert Moffitt, 1998. "An Analysis of the Impact of Sample Attrition on the Second Generation of Respondents in the Michigan Panel Study of Income Dynamics," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 33(2), pages 300-344.
    3. David Grusky & Thomas DiPrete, 1990. "Recent trends in the process of stratification," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 27(4), pages 617-637, November.
    4. 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.
    5. David I. Levine & Bhashkar Mazumder, 2002. "Choosing the right parents: changes in the intergenerational transmission of inequality between 1980 and the early 1990s," Working Paper Series WP-02-08, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    6. Pencavel, John, 1998. "Assortative Mating by Schooling and the Work Behavior of Wives and Husbands," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 326-329, May.
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