Dynastic Human Capital, Inequality and Intergenerational Mobility

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The transmission of human capital between generations has been much studied, but most research has focused on what parents pass on to their children. This study creates a much fuller picture of these effects by examining data on four generations of extended families in Sweden. It concludes previous research has very much underestimated the influence of family dynasties.

The research uses data from several censuses as well as administrative registers, linking children, parents and their siblings, grandparents, and great-grandparents, as well as cousins, aunts, uncles and their spouses. This provides information on families’ educational attainment, earnings and occupations for a 40-year period between 1968 and 2009.

The results show intergenerational mobility is more than 40 per cent higher when the influence of the extended family is taken into account. Parents and siblings were responsible for the greatest influence, but even more distant relatives were important.

The study concludes family dynasties have a much stronger influence on social mobility – or the lack of it – than might previously have been assumed.