Intergenerational Mobility and the Informative Content of Surnames

72 Pages Posted: 23 May 2008

See all articles by Maia Güell

Maia Güell

Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Faculty of Economic and Business Sciences; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

José Vincente Rodríguez Mora

Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Faculty of Economic and Business Sciences; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Chris Telmer

Carnegie Mellon University - David A. Tepper School of Business

Date Written: June 2007

Abstract

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

Keywords: birth-death processes, cross-sectional data, inheritance, population genetics

JEL Classification: C31, E24, J1

Suggested Citation

Guell, Maia and Rodríguez Mora, José Vincente and Telmer, Christopher I., Intergenerational Mobility and the Informative Content of Surnames (June 2007). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP6316. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1136643

Maia Guell (Contact Author)

Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Faculty of Economic and Business Sciences ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas 25-27
Barcelona, 08005
Spain
+34 93 542 2717 (Phone)
+34 94 816 9721 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.econ.upf.es/~mguell/

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

José Vincente Rodríguez Mora

Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Faculty of Economic and Business Sciences ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas 25-27
Barcelona, 08005
Spain
+34 93 542 1755 (Phone)
+34 93 542 1746 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Christopher I. Telmer

Carnegie Mellon University - David A. Tepper School of Business ( email )

5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
(412) 268-8838 (Phone)
(412) 268-6837 (Fax)

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