Department of Economics and Business Economics

Intergenerational Health Mobility: Evidence from Danish Registers

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To what extent status depends on family background has been of great interest in the social sciences and the general public for centuries. The transmission of income, earnings and educational attainment is often studied, while equality of opportunity with respect to health outcomes has received far less attention. This paper is the first to investigate intergenerational health mobility using high-quality administrative data from Denmark. The attractiveness of this approach lies in objective health measures and large sample sizes allowing twin analyses. I operationalise health mobility by a variety of statistics: rank-rank slopes, intergenerational correlations and sibling and identical twin correlations. Mobility in health is found to be relatively high for men, both when compared to similar US-based studies, and when contrasted with outcomes such as educational attainment and income. For Danish women, health-related dependence on family background is on par with similar statistics for income and earnings for other Scandinavian countries. Mobility is thus, perhaps somewhat nonintuitively, higher in health than in income. Contrasting sibling and identical twin correlations with parent-child associations confirm earlier findings in the literature on equality of opportunity, namely that sibling correlations capture far more variation than traditional intergenerational correlations. 14-38 percent of the variation in individual health outcomes can be ascribed to family background and genes, factors which the individual cannot be held accountable for. Only a negligible share of this variation can be explained by parental health, which suggests that other family-specific characteristics may play an important role for health mobility.
Original languageEnglish
Place of publicationAarhus
PublisherInstitut for Økonomi, Aarhus Universitet
Number of pages61
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2019
SeriesEconomics Working Papers
Number2019-04

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