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Does Human Capital Transfer from Parent to Child? The Intergenerational Effects of Compulsory Schooling

  • Philip Oreopoulos
  • Marianne E. Page
  • Ann Huff Stevens

The strong correlation between parents' economic status and that of their children has been well-documented, but little is known about the extent to which this is a causal phenomenon. This paper attempts to improve our understanding of the causal processes that contribute to intergenerational immobility by exploiting historical changes in compulsory schooling laws that affected the educational attainment of parents without affecting their innate abilities or endowments. We examine the influence of parental compulsory schooling on grade retention status for children aged 7 to 15 using the 1960, 1970 and 1980 U.S. Censuses. Our estimates indicate that a one-year increase in the education of either parent reduces the probability that a child repeats a grade by between two and seven percentage points. Among 15 to 16 year olds living at home, we also estimate that parental compulsory schooling significantly lowers the likelihood of dropping out. These findings suggest that education policies may be able to reduce part of the intergenerational transmission of inequality.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10164.

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Date of creation: Dec 2003
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Publication status: published as Oreopoulos, Philip, Marianne E. Page and Ann Huff Stevens. "The Intergenerational Effects Of Compulsory Schooling," Journal of Labor Economics, 2006, v24(4,Oct), 729-760.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10164
Note: ED LS CH
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  10. John Bound & David A. Jaeger, 1996. "On the Validity of Season of Birth as an Instrument in Wage Equations: A Comment on Angrist & Krueger's "Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Scho," NBER Working Papers 5835, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  12. Harmon, Colm & Walker, Ian, 1995. "Estimates of the Economic Return to Schooling for the United Kingdom," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1278-86, December.
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  15. Antonovics, Kate & Goldberger, Arthur S., 2003. "Do Educated Women Make Bad Mothers? Twin Studies of the Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt2mk37677, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  16. Colm Harmon & Ian Walker, 1995. "Estimates of the economic return to schooling for the United Kingdom," Open Access publications 10197/647, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  17. Philip Oreopoulos, 2003. "Do Dropouts Drop Out Too Soon? Evidence from Changes in School-Leaving Laws," Working Papers oreo-03-01, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  18. 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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