United We Stood: Intergenerational Mobility in History and Space

Sun Kyoung Lee, Columbia University
Costas Arkolakis, Yale University
Rodrigo Adao, The University of Chicago Booth

This paper estimates historical intergenerational elasticities between fathers and sons in the United States using a novel panel dataset. We exploit machine learning techniques to construct a massive database of multiple generations of fathers and sons which enable us to identify when and where was the "land of opportunities" where kids had chances to move up in the income ladder. We find that intergenerational mobility elasticities were relatively stable during 1880-1940; there are regional disparities in terms of giving kids opportunities to move up, and the geographic disparities themselves have evolved over time. Finally, we discuss the role of policies in explaining these patterns.

See extended abstract

 Presented in Session 149. Economic and Social Mobility