The Role of Education in the Intergenerational Transmission of Inequality: Using Spatial Differences in Developmental Trajectories to Identify Channels

Awarded Scholars:
Jesse Rothstein, University of California, Berkeley
Project Date:
Dec 2016
Award Amount:

To what extent has the rise in economic inequality over the past 40 years has affected social mobility? The stronger the economic relationship between parents and children, the more likely it is that children from affluent families will achieve greater economic success than children from more disadvantaged families. Yet, we know relatively little about the channels by which the transmission of advantage occurs. Empirical evidence suggests that many factors contribute to the transmission of advantage, including differences in parenting practices between high and low-income families, differences in investments in children’s education, differences in access to educational or other public institutions, and labor market institutions that privilege children from higher-income families.

Recent studies have shown that significant spatial heterogeneity in mobility patterns presents an opportunity for furthering our understanding of the intergenerational transmission of advantage. Economist Jesse Rothstein will explore whether geographic regions that show strong intergenerational transmission in income also show strong relationships between parental income and children’s test scores and other developmental outcomes. He will also identify the developmental ages at which geographic differences in intergenerational transmission are most likely to arise.


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


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