Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series, Center for Labor Studies,
Uppsala University, Department of Economics

No 2010:8: The Causal Eff ect of Parent’s Schooling on Children’s Schooling

Helena Holmlund , Mikael Lindahl () and Erik Plug
Additional contact information
Helena Holmlund: Swedish Institute for Social Research,, Postal: Stockholm University and Centre for Economic Performance, LSE
Mikael Lindahl: Uppsala Center for Labor Studies, Postal: Department of Economics, Uppsala University, P.O. Box 513, SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden
Erik Plug: Uppsala Center for Labor Studies, Postal: Department of Economics, Uppsala University, P.O. Box 513, SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden

Abstract: We review the empirical literature that estimates the causal effect of parent’s schooling on child’s schooling, and conclude that estimates differ across studies. We then consider three explanations for why this is: (a) idiosyncratic differences in data sets; (b) differences in remaining biases between different identification strategies; and (c) differences across identification strategies in their ability to make out-of-sample predictions. We conclude that discrepancies in past studies can be explained by violations of identifying assumptions. Our reading of past evidence, together with an application to Swedish register data, suggests that intergenerational schooling associations are largely driven by selection. Parental schooling constitutes a large part of the parental nurture effect, but as a whole does not play a large role.

Keywords: intergenerational mobility; education; causation; selection; identification

JEL-codes: C13; I21; J62

59 pages, May 31, 2010

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