Intergenerational income mobility: access to top jobs, the low-pay no-pay cycle, and the role of education in a common framework

Paul Gregg, Lindsey Macmillan, Claudia Vittori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (SciVal)


Studies of intergenerational mobility have typically focused on estimating the average persistence across generations. Here, we use the relatively new unconditional quantile regression technique to consider how intergenerational persistence varies across the distribution of sons’ earnings. We find a J-shaped relationship between parental income and sons’ earnings, with parental income a strong predictor of labour market success for those at the bottom, and to an even greater extent, the top of the earnings distribution. We explore the role early skills, education and early labour market attachment in shaping this pattern for the first time. Worryingly, we find that the association with childhood parental income dominating that of a high level of education at the top of the distribution of earnings. In this sense, education is not as meritocratic as we might hope, as those with the same detailed educational attainment still see a strong association between their earnings and their parental income. Early labour market spells out of work have lasting effects on those at the bottom, alongside parental income.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 501–528
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Population Economics
Issue number2
Early online date9 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


  • Intergenerational mobility, children, education, nonlinear estimation, quantile regression
  • Education
  • Children
  • Quantile regression
  • Intergenerational mobility
  • Nonlinear estimation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Economics and Econometrics


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