, Volume 56, Issue 3, pp 891–916 | Cite as

Shared Lifetimes, Multigenerational Exposure, and Educational Mobility

  • Xi SongEmail author
  • Robert D. Mare


In this article, we report analyses of the effects of fertility and mortality trends on the mutual exposure of grandparents and grandchildren and their consequences for multigenerational processes of social mobility in the United States from 1900 to 2010. Using historical vital statistics and stable population models, we report systematic analyses of grandparent-grandchild exposures from both prospective (grandparent) and retrospective (grandchild) perspectives. We also estimate exposure levels and trends specific to education levels of grandparents and grandchildren and decompose the overall trend into the effect of changing mortality, fertility level, and fertility timing. We show that changes in mutual exposure of grandparent and grandchild generations may have contributed to an increasing association between grandparents’ and grandchildren’s educational attainments.


Multigenerational exposure Grandparents Demographic change Social mobility Educational attainment 



This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (SES-1260456). The authors also benefited from facilities and resources provided by the California Center for Population Research (CCPR) at UCLA, which receives core support (P2C-HD041022) from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Earlier versions of this article have been presented at the 2015 RC28 Conference at the University of Pennsylvania; the 2016 ASA annual meeting in Seattle, Washington; the 2016 PAA annual meeting in Washington, DC; the 2017 ISA-RC28 Spring Meeting in Cologne, Germany; the Demography Workshop at the University of Chicago; the Demography and Inequality workshop organized by the European Consortium for Sociological Research in Berlin, Germany; and the Office of Population Research at Princeton University. We thank Cameron Campbell, Hal Caswell, Irma Elo, Anette Fasang, Michael Hout, Giovanna Merli, John Murphy, Judith Seltzer, Kazuo Yamaguchi, and numerous seminar participants for helpful discussions and comments, and Xia Zheng for outstanding research assistance.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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