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Author: Silva, Fabiana
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1. Silva, Fabiana
Generating Labor Market Inequality: Family Background, Employment Histories, and Earnings Disparities
Presented: Philadelphia PA, American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, August 2018
Cohort(s): NLSY79
Publisher: American Sociological Association
Keyword(s): College Degree; Earnings; Economic Well-Being; Employment, History; Family Background; Household Income; Intergenerational Patterns/Transmission

Permission to reprint the abstract has not been received from the publisher.

Parents pass on a substantial amount of their economic advantage to their children. While sociologists have long sought to explain this intergenerational transmission of economic status, most of the transmission remains unexplained. I argue sociological explanations have been limited by their focus on pre-labor market factors, such as educational attainment. Instead, drawing on rich week-by-week measures of work experiences from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79), I examine the role of labor market experiences--specifically, employment histories--in explaining the intergenerational transmission of economic status. I document a strong association between parental income and employment histories for men without a college degree. Among this group, men from higher-income families accumulate more work experience and tenure, and less unemployment, throughout their careers than men from lower-income families. Further, higher parental income is associated with a faster transition to stable employment for men with at most a high-school education, reducing the "churning" that characterizes the early labor market years of less-educated men. Consequently, conditioning on pre-labor market factors, employment histories mediate approximately one-third of the effect of parental income on earnings among non-college graduates. In contrast, regardless of parental income, college graduates quickly settle into stable, long-term employment. For the purposes of attaining stable employment, a college degree appears to be a powerful resource that leaves little room for family background effects. Ultimately, this study highlights the utility of examining how family background continues to affect individuals after they enter labor force.
Bibliography Citation
Silva, Fabiana. "Generating Labor Market Inequality: Family Background, Employment Histories, and Earnings Disparities." Presented: Philadelphia PA, American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, August 2018.