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The intergenerational transmission of cognitive and non-cognitive abilities


  • Grönqvist, Erik

    () (IFAU - Institute for Labour Market Policy Evaluation)

  • Öckert, Björn

    () (FAU - Institute for Labour Market Policy Evaluation)

  • Vlachos, Jonas

    () (Department of Economics, Stockholm University)


We study the intergenerational transmission of cognitive and non-cognitive abilities between parents and sons using population-wide enlistment data. Conscripts are eva-luated at the same age and with comparable methods across cohorts, and we correct for measurement error bias in fathers’ ability measures by using their brothers’ abilities as instruments. The “uncle instrument” is supported by a host of validity tests. This strat-egy also enables us to predict mothers’ abilities. Our results suggest that previous esti-mates of intergenerational ability correlations are biased downwards; in particular for non-cognitive skills. When this bias is corrected for the non-cognitive correlation is close to that of cognitive abilities. Using predicted abilities, we further find the mother-son cognitive ability correlation to be stronger than the father-son correlation. Finally, educational attainment and labor market outcomes of both sons and daughters are found to be strongly related to both parents’ cognitive and non-cognitive abilities.

Suggested Citation

  • Grönqvist, Erik & Öckert, Björn & Vlachos, Jonas, 2010. "The intergenerational transmission of cognitive and non-cognitive abilities," Working Paper Series 2010:12, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:ifauwp:2010_012

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Öhman, Mattias, 2015. "Be smart, live long: the relationship between cognitive and non-cognitive abilities and mortality," Working Paper Series 2015:21, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
    2. Fredriksson, Peter & Hensvik, Lena & Nordström Skans, Oskar, 2015. "Mismatch of Talent Evidence on Match Quality, Entry Wages, and Job Mobility," Research Papers in Economics 2015:10, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
    3. Amin, Vikesh & Lundborg, Petter & Rooth, Dan-Olof, 2015. "The intergenerational transmission of schooling: Are mothers really less important than fathers?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 100-117.
    4. Elke Lüdemann, 2011. "Schooling and the Formation of Cognitive and Non-cognitive Outcomes," ifo Beiträge zur Wirtschaftsforschung, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, number 39, November.
    5. Daniel Erdsiek, 2016. "Overqualification of graduates: assessing the role of family background
      [Überqualifikation von Hochschulabsolventen: Welche Rolle spielt der familiäre Hintergrund?]
      ," Journal for Labour Market Research, Springer;Institute for Employment Research/ Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), vol. 49(3), pages 253-268, November.
    6. Black, Sandra E. & Devereux, Paul J., 2011. "Recent Developments in Intergenerational Mobility," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
    7. Silke Anger & Daniel D. Schnitzlein, 2017. "Cognitive skills, non-cognitive skills, and family background: evidence from sibling correlations," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 30(2), pages 591-620, April.
    8. Randi Hjalmarsson & Matthew J. Lindquist, 2012. "Like Godfather, Like Son: Exploring the Intergenerational Nature of Crime," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 47(2), pages 550-582.
    9. Eren, Ozkan & Ozbeklik, Serkan, 2013. "The effect of noncognitive ability on the earnings of young men: A distributional analysis with measurement error correction," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 293-304.
    10. Lundborg, Petter & Nordin, Martin & Rooth, Dan Olof, 2012. "The Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital. The Role of Skills and Health," Working Papers 2012:22, Lund University, Department of Economics.
    11. Verena Wondratschek & Karin Edmark & Markus Frolich, 2013. "The Short- and Long-term Effects of School Choice on Student Outcomes - Evidence from a School Choice Reform in Sweden," Annals of Economics and Statistics, GENES, issue 111-112, pages 71-101.
    12. Datta Gupta, Nabanita & Simonsen, Marianne, 2011. "Where to Put the Kids? Effects of Type of Non-parental Child Care on Pre-teen Skills and Risky Behavior," IZA Discussion Papers 5848, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    13. repec:spr:series:v:8:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s13209-017-0165-x is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Lundborg, Petter & Nordin, Martin & Rooth, Dan-Olof, 2011. "The Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital: Exploring the Role of Skills and Health Using Data on Adoptees and Twins," IZA Discussion Papers 6099, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    15. Lundborg, Petter & Majlesi, Kaveh, 2015. "Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital: Is It a One-Way Street?," Working Papers 2015:22, Lund University, Department of Economics.
    16. Fuchs, Benjamin, 2016. "The effect of teenage employment on character skills, expectations and occupational choice strategies," Hohenheim Discussion Papers in Business, Economics and Social Sciences 14-2016, University of Hohenheim, Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences.
    17. Anger, Silke & Schnitzlein, Daniel D., 2013. "Like Brother, Like Sister? The Importance of Family Background for Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Skills," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 80052, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    18. Håkanson, Christina & Lindqvist, Erik & Vlachos, Jonas, 2015. "Firms and Skills: The Evolution of Worker Sorting," Working Paper Series 1072, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    19. repec:eee:juecon:v:99:y:2017:i:c:p:173-187 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Bezin, Emeline & Moizeau, Fabien, 2017. "Cultural dynamics, social mobility and urban segregation," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 173-187.
    21. Nybom, Martin & Stuhler, Jan, 2014. "Interpreting Trends in Intergenerational Mobility," Working Paper Series 3/2014, Stockholm University, Swedish Institute for Social Research.
    22. Tan, Chih Ming & Tan, Zhibo & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2014. "Sins of the fathers: The intergenerational legacy of the 1959-1961 Great Chinese Famine on children's cognitive development:," IFPRI discussion papers 1351, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    23. Nathalie Chusseau & Joel Hellier, 2012. "Education, Intergenerational Mobility and Inequality," Working Papers 261, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    24. Nybom, Martin & Stuhler, Jan, 2013. "Interpreting Trends in Intergenerational Income Mobility," IZA Discussion Papers 7514, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item


    Intergenerational ability correlations; cognitive ability; non-cognitive ability; measurement error bias;

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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