Family Socioeconomic Lineages: Implications for Inequality

Esther M. Friedman, Harvard University
Robert D. Mare, University of California, Los Angeles

Most studies conceive of and measure socioeconomic status (SES) at the individual level. When it comes to understanding inequality, however, it is imperative to think about the socioeconomic status of the broader family unit. Individuals with low levels of education, for instance, may over-achieve their socioeconomic position by marrying a highly-educated spouse or having a child with a college degree. In this paper we take a family perspective on SES by investigating the education and income of families, accounting for the fact that families change over time (due to birth, death, and divorce), as does exposure to different levels of SES. We will examine the education and income of multiple family members and obtain a measure of cumulative socioeconomic exposure - a time-varying factor accounting for exposure to different levels of education and income and how it changes over time as the composition of the family changes.

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Presented in Session 177: Demographic Drivers of Inequality