Intergenerational Mobility and Marital Sorting*


  • *

     Support for this research from the Economic and Social Research Council is gratefully acknowledged. We thank Anders Björklund, Nick Buck, Miles Corak, Muriel Egerton, Nathan Grawe, Stephen Jenkins, Sandy Jenks, Dave Marè, Cheti Nicoletti, Lars Osberg, Erik Plug, Gary Solon, Rudolf Winter-Ebmer and seminar participants at the University of Essex, IZA (Bonn), Tinbergen Institute (Amsterdam), the 2001 Workshop on Intergenerational Mobility at Statistics Canada (Ottawa), the 2001 ESPE conference (Athens), the Editor (Marianne Bertrand) and two referees for their helpful comments and suggestions on previous drafts of this work.


We use data from the German Socio-Economic Panel and the British Household Panel Survey to estimate the extent of intergenerational economic mobility in a framework that highlights the role played by assortative mating. We find that assortative mating plays an important role. On average about 40–50% of the covariance between parents’ and own permanent family income can be attributed to the person to whom one is married. This effect is driven by strong spouse correlations in human capital, which are larger in Germany than Britain.