Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy

No 2010:12: The intergenerational transmission of cognitive and non-cognitive abilities

Erik Grönqvist (), Björn Öckert () and Jonas Vlachos ()
Additional contact information
Erik Grönqvist: IFAU - Institute for Labour Market Policy Evaluation, Postal: P O Box 513, SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden
Björn Öckert: FAU - Institute for Labour Market Policy Evaluation, Postal: P O Box 513, SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden
Jonas Vlachos: Department of Economics, Stockholm University

Abstract: We study the intergenerational transmission of cognitive and non-cognitive abilities between parents and sons using population-wide enlistment data. Conscripts are eva-luated at the same age and with comparable methods across cohorts, and we correct for measurement error bias in fathers’ ability measures by using their brothers’ abilities as instruments. The “uncle instrument” is supported by a host of validity tests. This strat-egy also enables us to predict mothers’ abilities. Our results suggest that previous esti-mates of intergenerational ability correlations are biased downwards; in particular for non-cognitive skills. When this bias is corrected for the non-cognitive correlation is close to that of cognitive abilities. Using predicted abilities, we further find the mother-son cognitive ability correlation to be stronger than the father-son correlation. Finally, educational attainment and labor market outcomes of both sons and daughters are found to be strongly related to both parents’ cognitive and non-cognitive abilities.

Keywords: Intergenerational ability correlations; cognitive ability; non-cognitive ability; measurement error bias

JEL-codes: J13; J24

44 pages, November 11, 2010

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