First results of the Intergenerational Transmission of Skills (ITS) project

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Two new ROA Research Memoranda

Exploring the Uncharted Waters of Educational Mobility: The Role of Key Skills
Babs Jacobs, Rolf van der Velden (2021). ROA Research Memoranda No. 006
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For decades, researchers tried to get a deeper understanding of the intergenerational transmission of education to shed light on inequality of educational opportunities (IEO) that determine social mobility. The underlying drivers of IEO can stem from three
types of parental resources: parent’s key skills (i.e., proficiency in important domains like math and language), parent’s soft skills (i.e., the skills needed to navigate successfully in education), and parent’s financial resources. Previous research was not able to accurately distinguish between the contributions of these different resources, mainly because adequate data on the intergenerational transmission of key skills was missing. This study aims to fill this gap. We developed a unique and unparalleled dataset, the Intergenerational Transmission of Skills (ITS) dataset, combining key skills of more than 25,000 Dutch parents and their children measured with the same test at age 12 with detailed information on the educational pathways and household income. We demonstrate that parent’s key skills is the most important mechanism driving IEO. One standard deviation increase in parent’s key skills is associated with almost one-third of a standard deviation increase in the key skills of their offspring. The intergenerational transmission of key skills accounts for 50-60% of the effect of all measured resources available in the family. The role of financial resources available to the family is a bit stronger than the role of parent’s soft skills, accounting for some 25-30% of the total effect of family resources, with parent’s soft skills taking up some 20-25%.


The Intergenerational Transmission of Cognitive Skills: An Investigation of the Causal Impact of Families on Student Outcomes
Eric A. Hanushek, Babs Jacobs, Guido Schwerdt, Rolf van der Velden, Stan Vermeulen, Simon Wiederhold (2021). ROA Research Memoranda No. 007
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The extensive literature on intergenerational mobility highlights the importance of family linkages but fails to provide credible evidence about the underlying family factors that drive the pervasive correlations. We employ a unique combination of Dutch survey and registry data that links math and language skills across generations. We identify a causal connection between cognitive skills of parents and their children by exploiting within-family between-subject variation in these skills. The data also permit novel IV estimation that isolates variation in parental cognitive skills due to school and peer quality. The between-subject and IV estimates of the key intergenerational persistence parameter are strikingly similar and close at about 0.1. Finally, we show the strong influence of family skill transmission on children’s choices of STEM fields.