Analyzing the Effects of Intergenerational Income Mobility: A Copula-Based Approach



In contrast to the bourgeoning research on the status of intergenerational income mobility, a limited number of studies have been conducted to investigate its effects on individuals. This enterprise calls for solutions of the identification challenge that emerges when the measure of income mobility linearly co-varies with family income and adult children’s income. Existing strategies developed for categorical measures of socio-economic status is not directly deployable to handle this challenge without information loss. This article proposes to use copulas to investigate the consequences of intergenerational income mobility. Specifically, the complement of the estimated copula density from the joint distribution of two generations’ income can be used to construct a reachability type of mobility distance, which enables scholars to circumvent the identification challenge. This analytical approach is illustrated by investigating the effect of intergenerational income mobility on the mental health status, using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79). It is found that longer distance of upward intergenerational income mobility boosts one’s mental health status, although mobility distance fails to show a significant effect among the downwardly mobile.


Dr. Hu Anning is Professor of Sociology at Fudan University. His research interests include social inequality, education, religion, trust, culture, and social research methods. His research appears in major sociological outlets, such as British Journal of Sociology, Sociology, Social Science Research, Journal of Marriage and Family, Poetics,Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, Demographic Research, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Sociological Quarterly, Journal of Mathematical Sociology, and The China Quarterly, to name a few.

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