Estimating Intergenerational Mobility on Census Data

Awarded Scholars:
Nathaniel Hilger, Brown University
Project Date:
Dec 2015
Award Amount:
Project Programs:
Social, Political, and Economic Inequality

Nathaniel Hilger proposes a new methodology that allows for the estimation of intergenerational mobility on cross-sectional U.S. census data. Prior mobility research has largely ignored census data because the census only links parent and child outcomes while children still live with parents. Since children often become independent after age 18, it has been difficult to observe adult outcomes in a meaningful way. However, Hilger posits that parental background relates to final schooling in ways that turn out to be similar for dependent and independent children.

Using this method, he will examine long-term mobility trends in the U.S beginning with the 1860 census. The large census microdata samples will allow Hilger to examine long-term mobility trends across different demographic groups and geographic locations. He will also explore racial and ethnic differences in intergenerational mobility and the factors that underlie those differences, in particular, looking at why Asians, who were subject to significant institutional discrimination over the course of time, have overcome these disadvantages to achieve a significant degree of success in the modern period compared to other disadvantaged groups.


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