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The Intergenerational Persistence of Lifetime Earnings

  • Hendricks, Lutz A.

This paper proposes a new method for estimating the intergenerational persistence of lifetime earnings from data that contain only short sections of individual earnings histories. The approach infers lifetime earnings persistence from the persistence of short earnings averages together with information about the stochastic process governing individual earnings. I find that lifetime earnings are substantially more persistent than previous estimates based on short panel data suggest. About 54% of lifetime earnings differences between fathers persist into their sons' generation. This persistence estimate exceeds previous estimates based on five year earnings averages by one third. These findings are robust against alternative assumptions about the data generating process for earnings.

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Paper provided by Iowa State University, Department of Economics in its series Staff General Research Papers with number 12669.

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Date of creation: 01 Jan 2007
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in European Economic Review, January 2007, vol. 51 no. 1, pp. 125-144
Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:12669
Contact details of provider: Postal: Iowa State University, Dept. of Economics, 260 Heady Hall, Ames, IA 50011-1070
Phone: +1 515.294.6741
Fax: +1 515.294.0221
Web page: http://www.econ.iastate.eduEmail:


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  1. Lutz Hendricks, 2001. "How Do Taxes Affect Human Capital? The Role of Intergenerational Mobility," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 4(3), pages 695-735, July.
  2. Michael Baker & Gary Solon, 1999. "Earnings Dynamics and Inequality among Canadian Men, 1976-1992: Evidence from Longitudinal Income Tax Records," NBER Working Papers 7370, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Glenn R. Hubbard & Jonathan Skinner & Stephen P. Zeldes, . "Precautionary Saving and Social Insurance," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 03-95, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  4. Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier & Parker, Jonathan A, 2000. "Consumption Over the Life-Cycle," CEPR Discussion Papers 2345, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Ana Castaneda & Javier Diaz-Gimenez & Jose-Victor Rios-Rull, 2003. "Accounting for the U.S. Earnings and Wealth Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(4), pages 818-857, August.
  6. Peters, H Elizabeth, 1992. "Patterns of Intergenerational Mobility in Income and Earnings," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 74(3), pages 456-66, August.
  7. Mark Huggett & Gustavo Ventura, 1995. "Understanding why high income households save more than low income households," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 106, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  8. Gokhale, Jagadeesh & Kotlikoff, Laurence J. & Sefton, James & Weale, Martin, 2001. "Simulating the transmission of wealth inequality via bequests," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(1), pages 93-128, January.
  9. Bhashkar Mazumder, 2003. "Revised estimates of intergenerational income mobility in the United States," Working Paper Series WP-03-16, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  10. Grawe, Nathan D., 2003. "Life Cycle Bias in the Estimation of Intergenerational Earnings Persistence," Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series 2003207e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
  11. Behrman, Jere & Tarbman, Paul, 1985. "Intergenerational Earnings Mobility in the United States: Some Estimates and a Test of Becker's Intergenerational Endowments Model," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(1), pages 144-51, February.
  12. Huggett, Mark, 1996. "Wealth distribution in life-cycle economies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 469-494, December.
  13. Solon, Gary, 1992. "Intergenerational Income Mobility in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 393-408, June.
  14. Solon, Gary, 1999. "Intergenerational mobility in the labor market," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 29, pages 1761-1800 Elsevier.
  15. Couch, Kenneth A. & Lillard, Dean R., 1998. "Sample selection rules and the intergenerational correlation of earnings," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 313-329, September.
  16. Zimmerman, David J, 1992. "Regression toward Mediocrity in Economic Stature," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 409-29, June.
  17. Yona Rubinstein & Daniel Tsiddon, 2004. "Coping with Technological Change: The Role of Ability in Making Inequality so Persistent," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 305-346, 09.
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