Guell, Maia, Rodriguez Mora, Jose and Telmer, Chris
Intergenerational mobility and the informative content of surnames , London, UK Centre for Economic Policy Research 62pp.
(Centre for Economic Policy Research Discussion Paper Series, (doi:10.2139/ssrn.1003345) , DP6316).
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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
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