Social Mobility in Multiple Generations

Robert D. Mare, University of California, Los Angeles
Xi Song, University of California, Los Angeles

Most research on intergenerational processes focuses on two generation connections between individuals and their children or parents. This research ignores grandparent influences and longer legacy effects. Mare’s 2010 PAA Presidential Address suggested mechanisms through which multigenerational effects may occur and are most likely to be strongest. This paper examines three types of multigenerational influence: (1) effects of grandparent socioeconomic positions on the standing of individuals; (2) legacy effects of dramatic socioeconomic disparities many generations in the past; and (3) reproductive effects through socioeconomic differences in net fertility. It illustrates these effects through analyses of social mobility survey data in South Africa, Central Europe, China, and the U.S.; household registry data for 18th and 19th Northeastern China; and archival data on the descendants of the founder of the Qing Dynasty. The last of these data sources shows strong multigenerational effects, consistent with the conjecture that these effects are strongest at the extremes of social hierarchies.

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Presented in Session 152: Demographic Perspectives on Inequality