Family Structure and the Transmission of Economic Status through Fathers and Mothers : Evidence from the Utah Population Database

Thomas Maloney, University of Utah
Ken R. Smith, University of Utah

The study of intergenerational economic mobility in the US has been greatly aided by the development of linked datasets from a variety of sources, including Census manuscripts. The analysis arising from these new sources is quite rich compared to what was previously possible. However, the transitions examined are still typically limited to comparisons of fathers’ and sons’ economic status. Following transitions in status through the mother’s side of a family is much more difficult due to the common practice of women changing their surname upon marriage. In this paper, we use the rich family links available in the Utah Population Database (UPDB) to overcome this limitation. The core of our sample comes from birth certificates for individuals born in the state of Utah between 1915 and 1921. We have over 90,000 such birth records. These provide detailed information on parents, including occupation and industry. We then link these parents back to their families of origin and identify the occupation of mothers’ fathers and mothers’ male siblings, relying on both Census records and birth certificates. This information allows us to construct an index of the economic status of the mother distinct from that of her husband. Finally, we identify the adult occupations of the 1915 and 1921 birth cohort in the birth certificates of their children. So, for the 1915-21 birth cohort, we have information on their fathers’ occupations, the economic status of their mothers’ families of origin, their own occupations in adulthood, and intervening changes in family structure through the death of either parent as well as remarriage. We will therefore be able to paint an unusually detailed picture of the relationship between family origins (on both sides), changes in family structure, and adult occupational status in the US between the end of the 19th century and the mid-20th century.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 221. Various Effects of Socioeconomic Status