The Journal of Economic Inequality

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 351–372 | Cite as

The implications of selective attrition for estimates of intergenerational elasticity of family income



Numerous studies have estimated a high intergenerational correlation in economic status. Such studies do not typically attend to potential biases that may arise due to survey attrition. Using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics – the data source most commonly used in prior studies – we demonstrate that attrition is particularly high for low-income adult children with low-income parents and particularly low for high-income adult children with high-income parents. Because of this pattern of attrition, intergenerational upward mobility has been overstated for low-income families and downward mobility has been understated for high-income families. The bias among low-income families is greater than the bias among high-income families implying that intergenerational elasticity in family income is higher than previous estimates with the Panel Study of Income Dynamics would suggest.


Intergenerational transmission Attrition Family income 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Supplementary material

10888_2015_9297_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (25 kb)
(PDF 24.8 KB)


  1. Chadwick, L., Solon, G.: Intergenerational income mobility among daughters. Am. Econ. Rev. 92, 335–344 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Charles, K., Hurst, E.: The correlation of wealth across generations. J. Polit. Econ. 111(6), 1155–1182 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Corak, M.: Generational Income Mobility in North America and Europe. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Corak, M., Heisz, A.: The intergenerational earnings and income mobility of canadian men. J. Hum. Resour. 34, 504–533 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Duncan, O.D., Featherman, D., Duncan, B.: Socioeconomic background and achievement. Seminar Press, New York (1972)Google Scholar
  6. Fitzgerald, J., Gottschalk, P., Moffitt, R.: An analysis of the impact of sample attrition in panel data: the michigan panel study of income dynamics. J. Hum. Resour. 33(2), 251–299 (1998a)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Fitzgerald, J., Gottschalk, P., Moffitt, R.: An analysis of the impact of sample attrition on the second generation of respondents in the michigan panel study of income dynamics. J. Hum. Resour. 33(2), 300–344 (1998b)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fitzgerald, J.: Attrition in models of intergenerational links using the PSID with extensions to health and sibling models. The B.E. J. Econ. Anal. Policy 11(3) (2011). Article 2.Google Scholar
  9. Grawe, N.: Lifecycle bias in estimates of intergenerational earnings persistence. Labour Econ. 13, 551–570 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Haider, S., Solon, G.: Lifecycle variation in the association between current and lifetime earnings. Am. Econ. Rev. 96(4), 1308–1320 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hertz, T.: Rags, Riches and Race: The Intergenerational Economic Mobility of Black and White Families in the United States. In: Bowles, S., Gintis, H., Osborne, M. (eds.) Unequal Chances: Family Background and Economic Success, pp 165–91. Russell Sage and Princeton University Press, New York (2005)Google Scholar
  12. Hertz, T.: Trends in the intergenerational elasticity of family income in the United States. Ind. Relat. 46(1), 22–50 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Jäntti, M., Bratsberg, B., Røed, K., Raaum, O., Naylor, R., Österbacka, E., Björklund A., Eriksson, T.: American Exceptionalism in a New Light: a Comparison of Intergenerational Earnings Mobility in the Nordic Countries, the United Kingdom and the United States. Discussion paper no. 1938 (Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)Bonn) (2006)Google Scholar
  14. Lee, C., Solon, G.: Trends in intergenerational income mobility. Rev. Econ. Stat. 91, 766–772 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Levine, D., Mazumder, B.: The growing importance of family: Evidence from brothers earnings. Industrial Relations 46(1), 7–21 (2007)Google Scholar
  16. Mayer, S., Lopoo, L.: Has the intergenerational transmission of economic status changed? J. Hum. Resour. 40(1), 169–185 (2005)Google Scholar
  17. Mazumder, B.: Fortunate sons: new estimates of intergenerational mobility in the United States using social security earnings data. Rev. Econ. Stat. 87(2), 235–255 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. O’Neill, D., Sweetman, O., Van de gaer, D.: The effects of measurement error and omitted variables when using transition matrices to measure intergenerational mobility. J. Econ. Inequal. 5, 159–178 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Schoeni, R., Stafford, F., McGonagle, K., Andreski, P.: Response rates in national panel surveys. Ann. Am. Acad. Polit. Soc. Sci. 645(1), 60–87 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Solon, G.: Intergenerational income mobility in the United States. Am. Econ. Rev. 82, 393–408 (1992)Google Scholar
  21. Waldkirch, A., Ng, S., Cox, D.: Intergenerational linkages in consumption behavior. J. Hum. Resour. 39, 355–381 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Zimmerman, D.: Regression toward mediocrity in economic stature. Am. Econ. Rev. 82(3), 409–429 (1992)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Social Research, School of Public Policy, and Department of EconomicsUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of Massachusetts BostonBostonUSA

Personalised recommendations