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Book Review: The son also rises: Surnames and the history of social mobility

esther_hewlett

Today’s book review is of The Son also rises: Surnames and the history of social mobility, by Gregory Clark. This book is an extremely wide-ranging attempt to answer the question of how much your parents matter to your ability to make your way in the world. A common way of measuring this is looking at the relationship between the income of children and their parents – here’s one study (a pdf from Andrew Leigh) as an example. In it, Leigh estimates the “income elasticity” from fathers to sons as 0.2: Combining four surveys conducted over a forty-year period, I calculate intergenerational earnings elasticities for Australia, using predicted earnings in parents’ occupations as a proxy for actual parental earnings. In the most recent survey, the elasticity of sons’ wages with respect to fathers’ wages is around 0.2. In other words, a father’s income predicts a son’s income with 20% accuracy. But this book goes…