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Like Brother, Like Sister? The Importance of Family Background for Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Skills

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  • Anger, Silke
  • Schnitzlein, Daniel D.

Abstract

This paper estimates sibling correlations in cognitive skills and non-cognitive skills to evaluate the importance of family background for skill formation. The study is based on a large representative German dataset, which includes IQ test scores and measures of personality (locus of control, reciprocity, Big Five) for brothers and sisters. Using a Restricted Maximum Likelihood (REML) model we find substantial influences of family background on the skills of both brothers and sisters. Sibling correlations of personality traits range from 0.24 to 0.59, indicating that even for the lowest estimate, one fourth of the variance can be attributed to factors shared by siblings. With one exception, all calculated sibling correlations in cognitive skills are higher than 0.50, indicating that more than half of the inequality can be explained by family characteristics. Comparing these findings to the results in the intergenerational skill transmission literature suggests that intergenerational correlations are only able to capture parts of the influence of the family on children s cognitive and non-cognitive skills. This result is in line with findings in the literature on educational and income mobility.

Suggested Citation

  • Anger, Silke & Schnitzlein, Daniel D., 2013. "Like Brother, Like Sister? The Importance of Family Background for Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Skills," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 80052, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:vfsc13:80052
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    File URL: https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/80052/1/VfS_2013_pid_897.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Cobb-Clark, Deborah A. & Schurer, Stefanie, 2012. "The stability of big-five personality traits," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 115(1), pages 11-15.
    2. Susan E. Mayer & Greg Duncan & Ariel Kalil, 2004. "Like Mother, Like Daughter? SES and the Intergenerational correlation of Traits, Behaviors and Attitudes," Working Papers 0415, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
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    5. Markus Jäntti & Eva Österbacka & Oddbjörn Raaum & Tor Eriksson & Anders Björklund, 2002. "Brother correlations in earnings in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden compared to the United States," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 15(4), pages 757-772.
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    Cited by:

    1. Karin Hederos Eriksson & Randi Hjalmarsson & Matthew J. Lindquist & Anna Sandberg, 2016. "The importance of family background and neighborhood effects as determinants of crime," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 29(1), pages 219-262, January.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • 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
    • I00 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - General - - - General

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