Childhood Health and Skills Development in Intergenerational Mobility

Robert G. White, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Evidence of stalled and declining social mobility in industrialized economies is often attributed to the continuing importance of family background in settings where education increasingly matters for economic attainment. While family background provides reliable predictors of children's economic attainment in adulthood, the pathways underlying these relationships remain unclear. This paper assesses the relative contributions of poor early health, socioemotional skills and cognitive skills during childhood to intergenerational income mobility. A method for decomposing the relative contributions of these pathways is applied to birth cohorts from 1958 and 1970 in the United Kingdom. Birthweight and adolescent health contribute a stable but modest share to intergenerational mobility. While mathematics and reading in adolescence contribute the largest shares, they also display a declining importance over the two cohorts. In contrast, measures of introvertedness and distractedness show large and increasing importance for intergenerational income mobility.

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Presented in Session 45: Economic Circumstances, Child Health, and Well-Being