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In the Name of the Son (and the Daughter): Intergenerational Mobility in the United States, 1850-1930

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  • Claudia Olivetti
  • M. Daniele Paserman

Abstract

This paper provides a new perspective on intergenerational mobility in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We devise an empirical strategy that allows to calculate intergenerational elasticities between fathers and children of both sexes. The key insight of our approach is that the information about socio-economic status conveyed by first names can be used to create a pseudo-link not only between fathers and sons, but also between fathers and daughters. The latter is typically not possible with historical data. We find that the father-son elasticity in economic status grows throughout the sample period. Intergenerational elasticities for daughters follow a broadly similar trend, but with some differences in timing. We argue that most of the increase in the intergenerational elasticity estimate in the early part of the 20th Century can be accounted for by the vast regional disparities in economic development, with increasing returns to human capital contributing to explain the residual. Other mechanisms such as changes in fertility, migration, and investment in public schooling, appear to have had only a minor role in explaining the trends.

Suggested Citation

  • Claudia Olivetti & M. Daniele Paserman, 2013. "In the Name of the Son (and the Daughter): Intergenerational Mobility in the United States, 1850-1930," NBER Working Papers 18822, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18822
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    Cited by:

    1. Carneiro, Pedro & Lee, Sokbae & Reis, Hugo, 2020. "Please call me John: Name choice and the assimilation of immigrants in the United States, 1900–1930," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(C).
    2. Clark, Gregory & Cummins, Neil & Hao, Yu & Vidal, Dan Diaz, 2015. "Surnames: A new source for the history of social mobility," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 3-24.
    3. Breinlich, Holger & Ottaviano, Gianmarco I.P. & Temple, Jonathan R.W., 2014. "Regional Growth and Regional Decline," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 4, pages 683-779, Elsevier.
    4. Cook, Lisa D. & Logan, Trevon D. & Parman, John M., 2014. "Distinctively black names in the American past," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 64-82.
    5. Salisbury, Laura, 2014. "Selective migration, wages, and occupational mobility in nineteenth century America," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 40-63.
    6. Jonathan T. Rothwell & Douglas S. Massey, 2015. "Geographic Effects on Intergenerational Income Mobility," Economic Geography, Clark University, vol. 91(1), pages 83-106, January.
    7. Tamura, Robert & Dwyer, Jerry & Devereux, John & Baier, Scott, 2019. "Economic growth in the long run," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 1-35.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion
    • N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913

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