A Study on Social Mobility across Generations and Inequality of Opportunity

Choi, Pil Sun & In Sik Min. 2015. The Journal of Social Science 22(3): 31-56.

This paper investigates the social mobility across generations in Korea using Korea Education and Employment Panel (KEEP) 1st~10th waves. We provide a descriptive analysis that how parents’ education and income levels affect their offspring’s educational achievement, and moreover labor market performance after graduation. With retrospective survey data, existing studies have examined the effect of parental characteristics on their children’s education or occupation. By contrast, KEEP data can complement the shortcomings of the retrospective survey data because the data directly obtain the household characteristics when the respondent was a middle or high school student. Main empirical findings are as follows: First, as the higher parental education or income level, the higher the proportion of children going on to a four-year college. Second, educational achievement as measured by CSAT (College Scholastic Aptitude Test) scores positively reflect parents’ social class. Third, offspring’s labor market performance is to some extent influenced by parents’ characteristics. A son’s wage belonging to father with college diploma is 20% higher than alternative parents groups with high school graduates or less. Fourth, regarding the relationship between father’s income and offspring’s wage, a son’s wage is 19% greater when this worker belongs to the fifth quartile of household income compared to the case, belonging to the first quartile. As a result of estimating ex-ante inequality of opportunity, empirical analysis tells that regardless of an individual’s efforts, about 9.7% of all heterogeneity in his educational attainment is due to parents’ circumstances. We conclude that the succession pattern of parents’ education and income levels to their offspring is clearly observed in terms of college admission and academic achievement. Our society will face that inter-generational social mobility is inevitably limited when education disparity causes to widen wage gap.

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