Do Brother Correlations in Occupational Status and Income Overlap?

Evidence on the Common Family Origins of Attainment in the United States and Denmark
3 November 2022
Start time 
2:00 pm
Palazzo di Sociologia - Via Verdi 26, Trento
Aula Kessler
Doctoral School of Social Sciences
Target audience: 
Kristian Karlson, Copenhagen University

We examine whether brother similarities in occupational status are rooted in the same underlying family characteristics that affect brother similarities in income. We extend previous research using sibling correlations as an omnibus measure of total family background impact on a given outcome by directly quantifying how sibling correlations in occupational status and income overlap. We apply a novel variance components model to data from Denmark and the United States, two countries known to follow a contradictory pattern: While income mobility is much lower in the United States, occupational mobility is virtually similar. Apart from confirming this pattern, we find a substantial overlap, around 70 percent, in brother similarities in income and occupational status in both countries. Conventional family background variables account for only about one-fifth of this overlap in each country, suggesting that shared family origins of attainment in these two domains are constituted by largely unknown family characteristics. We discuss what these characteristics might be.