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Intergenerational mobility and the informative content of surnames

By Maia Guell, Jose Rodriguez Mora and Chris Telmer


We propose an alternative method for measuring intergenerational mobility.<br/>Traditional methods based on panel data provide measurements that are<br/>scarce, difficult to compare across countries and almost impossible to get<br/>across time. In particular this means that we do not know how<br/>intergenerational mobility is correlated with growth, income or the degree of<br/>inequality. Our proposal is to measure the informative content of surnames in<br/>one census. The more information does the surname have on the income of<br/>an individual, the more important is her background in determining her<br/>outcomes; and thus, the less mobility there is. The reason is that surnames<br/>inform on family relationships because the distribution of surnames is<br/>necessarily very skewed. A large percentage of the population is bound to<br/>have a very unfrequent surname. For them the partition generated by<br/>surnames is very informative on family linkages. First, we develop a model<br/>whose endogenous variable is the joint distribution of surnames and income.<br/>There we explore the relationship between mobility and the informative<br/>content of surnames. We allow for assortative mating to be a determinant of<br/>both. Then, we use our methodology to show that in large Spanish region the<br/>informative content of surnames is large and consistent with the model. We<br/>also show that it has increased over time, indicating a substantial drop in the<br/>degree of mobility. Finally, using the peculiarities of the Spanish surname<br/>convention we show that the degree of assortative mating has also increased<br/>over time, in such a manner that might explain the decrease in mobility<br/>observed. Our method allows us to provide measures of mobility comparable<br/>across time. It should also allow us to study other issues related to<br/>inheritance

Topics: HB, HT
Publisher: Centre for Economic Policy Research
Year: 2007
OAI identifier:
Provided by: e-Prints Soton
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