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Bias in social mobility estimates with historical data: evidence from Swiss microdata


Favre, Giacomin (2019). Bias in social mobility estimates with historical data: evidence from Swiss microdata. Working paper series / Department of Economics 329, University of Zurich.

Abstract

This paper explores a variety of potential issues one has to address when estimating intergenerational mobility with historical data. Many studies are potentially affected by bias originating from individuals emigrating and thus dropping out of the sample, missing information on the life-cycle, and imperfectly linking data sets. Unique panel data on Zurich’s citizenry between 1799 and 1926 entail information on true intergenerational links, and allow to follow individuals across the globe and time. This information enables me to explore how father-son mobility estimates are affected by excluding emigrating individuals, occupational patterns over the life-cycle, and linking procedures. The results suggest that focusing on geographically immobile individuals might decrease the estimated level of social mobility. The estimated level of mobility depends on both the father’s and the son’s age at classification but does not exhibit a monotone trend in the direction of the bias. Most recent linking procedures do not generate significant bias in the sample of Zurich citizens due to the high level of detail of the data combined with a small population size.

Abstract

This paper explores a variety of potential issues one has to address when estimating intergenerational mobility with historical data. Many studies are potentially affected by bias originating from individuals emigrating and thus dropping out of the sample, missing information on the life-cycle, and imperfectly linking data sets. Unique panel data on Zurich’s citizenry between 1799 and 1926 entail information on true intergenerational links, and allow to follow individuals across the globe and time. This information enables me to explore how father-son mobility estimates are affected by excluding emigrating individuals, occupational patterns over the life-cycle, and linking procedures. The results suggest that focusing on geographically immobile individuals might decrease the estimated level of social mobility. The estimated level of mobility depends on both the father’s and the son’s age at classification but does not exhibit a monotone trend in the direction of the bias. Most recent linking procedures do not generate significant bias in the sample of Zurich citizens due to the high level of detail of the data combined with a small population size.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Working Paper
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Working Paper Series > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
JEL Classification:J62, J61, N33, N34
Uncontrolled Keywords:Social mobility, geographic mobility, life-cycle, matching, historical data
Language:English
Date:July 2019
Deposited On:19 Jul 2019 10:33
Last Modified:07 Apr 2020 07:21
Series Name:Working paper series / Department of Economics
Number of Pages:82
ISSN:1664-705X
OA Status:Green
Official URL:https://www.econ.uzh.ch/static/release/workingpapers.php?id=1008

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