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What If You Had Been Less Fortunate: The Effects of Poor Family Background on Current Labor Market Outcomes


  • Cho, Sungwook

    () (Sogang University)

  • Heshmati, Almas

    () (Jönköping University, Sogang University)


This study examines the correlation between childhood poverty and its influence on adulthood wage distribution, where childhood poverty refers to experience of poverty or poor family background during one's childhood. With the data from Korean Labor Income Panel Study, KLIPS, quantile regression technique and decomposition method are conducted to identify and decompose the wage gap between low (poor) and middle class income group along the whole current wage distribution, based on a simulated counterfactual distribution. The results show that, those who had been less fortunate during their childhood likely had less opportunity to gain labor market favored characteristics such as a higher level of education, and even earn lower returns to their labor market characteristics in the current labor market. This leads to a discount of about fifteen percentages points off of the wage on average in total for those with underprivileged backgrounds during childhood compared to those with the middle class background, and that disadvantage is observed heterogeneously, greater at the lower quantiles than the higher quantiles of the current wage distribution. Then this research contributes to the literature by providing a partial understanding of poverty in Korea and its possible causes, in particular, in form of poor family background or childhood poverty, with which the implication of intergenerational effect issue is considered.

Suggested Citation

  • Cho, Sungwook & Heshmati, Almas, 2013. "What If You Had Been Less Fortunate: The Effects of Poor Family Background on Current Labor Market Outcomes," IZA Discussion Papers 7708, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7708

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gary S. Becker & Nigel Tomes, 1994. "Human Capital and the Rise and Fall of Families," NBER Chapters,in: Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis with Special Reference to Education (3rd Edition), pages 257-298 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    More about this item


    quantile regression; decomposition; wage distribution; wage inequality; childhood poverty; family background; labor market outcome; Korea;

    JEL classification:

    • C21 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models; Treatment Effect Models
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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