Human capital investment

What Else Do Parents Give their Sons? PIAAC Evidence on the Intergenerational Transmission of Labour Market Advantage in 8 OECD Countries

Exploring the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) database, which provides detailed information on educational pathways and scores in literacy and numeracy tests, we analyse close to 7000 sons aged 30-54 in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Norway, Poland, the UK and the US around 2011-2012. We investigate to what degree the association between parental background (educational attainment and the number of books in the parental home) and sons’ earnings is mediated by various dimensions of sons’ human capital (educational attainment, field of study, numeracy and literacy scores, and proxies of non-cognitive skills). We find that the intergenerational transmission process is wholly mediated by sons’ formal education only in the US. By contrast, a significant residual association remains even after we control for all four dimensions of sons’ human capital in Italy, Spain and Poland (for both parental background proxies) as well as France and the UK (just for parental education). While we cannot exclude that this residual association is due to further unobservable background-related skills sons might have, this points to family factors unrelated to human capital-based meritocracy that might play a particularly important role in the intergenerational transmission of labour market advantage in these five societies.


Joint work of Franco Bonomi Bezzo, Michele Raitano and Pieter Vanhuysse.



Pieter Vanhuysse