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The Intergenerational Transmission of Cognitive Skills: An Investigation of the Causal Impact of Families on Student Outcomes

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  • Hanushek, Eric A.

    (Stanford University)

  • Jacobs, Babs

    (Maastricht University)

  • Schwerdt, Guido

    (University of Konstanz)

  • Van der Velden, Rolf

    (ROA, Maastricht University)

  • Vermeulen, Stan

    (Maastricht University)

  • Wiederhold, Simon

    (IWH Halle)

Abstract

The extensive literature on intergenerational mobility highlights the importance of family linkages but fails to provide credible evidence about the underlying family factors that drive the pervasive correlations. We employ a unique combination of Dutch survey and registry data that links math and language skills across generations. We identify a causal connection between cognitive skills of parents and their children by exploiting within-family between-subject variation in these skills. The data also permit novel IV estimation that isolates variation in parental cognitive skills due to school and peer quality. The between-subject and IV estimates of the key intergenerational persistence parameter are strikingly similar and close at about 0.1. Finally, we show the strong influence of family skill transmission on children's choices of STEM fields.

Suggested Citation

  • Hanushek, Eric A. & Jacobs, Babs & Schwerdt, Guido & Van der Velden, Rolf & Vermeulen, Stan & Wiederhold, Simon, 2021. "The Intergenerational Transmission of Cognitive Skills: An Investigation of the Causal Impact of Families on Student Outcomes," IZA Discussion Papers 14854, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp14854
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    Cited by:

    1. Eric A. Hanushek & Babs Jacobs & Guido Schwerdt & Rolf van der Velden & Stan Vermeulen & Simon Wiederhold, 2021. "Where Do STEM Graduates Stem From? The Intergenerational Transmission of Comparative Skill Advantages," CESifo Working Paper Series 9388, CESifo.
    2. Jacobs, Babs & van der Velden, Rolf, 2021. "Exploring the uncharted waters of educational mobility: The role of key skills," Research Memorandum 016, Maastricht University, Graduate School of Business and Economics (GSBE).
    3. Gordon B. Dahl & Dan-Olof Rooth & Anders Stenberg, 2020. "Intergenerational and Sibling Spillovers in High School Majors," NBER Working Papers 27618, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Gielen, Anne C. & Webbink, Dinand, 2023. "Unexpected Colonial Returns: Self-Selection and Economic Integration of Migrants over Multiple Generations," IZA Discussion Papers 16065, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    intergenerational mobility; parent-child skill transmission; causality; STEM;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • I26 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Returns to Education
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion

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