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

Publication Abstract

Schoeni, Robert F., and Emily Wiemers. 2015. "The implications of selective attrition for estimates of intergenerational elasticity of family income." Journal of Economic Inequality, 13(3): 351-372.

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.

PMCID: PMC4523378. (Pub Med Central)

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