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IQ and Family Background: Are Associations Strong or Weak?

  • Björklund, Anders

    ()

    (SOFI, Stockholm University)

  • Hederos Eriksson, Karin

    ()

    (SOFI, Stockholm University)

  • Jäntti, Markus

    ()

    (SOFI, Stockholm University)

For the purpose of understanding the underlying mechanisms behind intergenerational associations in income and education, recent studies have explored the intergenerational transmission of abilities. We use a large representative sample of Swedish men to examine both intergenerational and sibling correlations in IQ. Since siblings share both parental factors and neighbourhood influences, the sibling correlation is a broader measure of the importance of family background than the intergenerational correlation. We use IQ data from the Swedish military enlistment tests. The correlation in IQ between fathers (born 1951-1956) and sons (born 1966-1980) is estimated to 0.347. The corresponding estimate for brothers (born 1951-1968) is 0.473, suggesting that family background explains approximately 50% of a person's IQ. Estimating sibling correlations in IQ we thus find that family background has a substantially larger impact on IQ than has been indicated by previous studies examining only intergenerational correlations in IQ.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4305.

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Length: 12 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2009
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy: Contributions to Economic Analysis and Policy, 2010, 10 (1), Article 2
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4305
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  1. Hertz Tom & Jayasundera Tamara & Piraino Patrizio & Selcuk Sibel & Smith Nicole & Verashchagina Alina, 2008. "The Inheritance of Educational Inequality: International Comparisons and Fifty-Year Trends," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 7(2), pages 1-48, January.
  2. Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, 2002. "The Inheritance of Inequality," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 3-30, Summer.
  3. Black, Sandra E. & Devereux, Paul J. & Salvanes, Kjell G., 2009. "Like father, like son? A note on the intergenerational transmission of IQ scores," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 105(1), pages 138-140, October.
  4. 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.
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