Family Trees and Falling Apples: Intergenerational Mobility Estimates from U.S. Genealogy Data
In this paper, we estimate the degree of intergenerational transmission of socioeconomic status in the United States between 1850 and 1940, using an innovative strategy for linking census records for parents and children. First, we collect record links created by users of a large, online, crowd- sourced genealogy platform. Second, we use information from these user-generated links to inform other supervised and unsupervised matching methods. Our completed data set, which we call the Census Tree, contains hundreds of millions of links among the 1850-1940 censuses. We use these data to produce estimates of the intergenerational transmission of characteristics including occupation score, literacy, and fertility. Because family members do the linking and often know the maiden names of women in their family, we are able to link parents to their daughters as well as their sons, which allows us to determine whether social mobility operated more strongly through daughters or through sons.