JPE to Publish Gary Becker's “A Theory of Intergenerational Mobility”
Published by on May 23, 2018
An important new work from Gary Becker will be released in the near future, more than four years after the death of the Nobel Prize-winning economist, noted as “the most important social scientist in the past 50 years” by the New York Times. The timely subject matter of “A Theory of Intergenerational Mobility” "ties together major threads of [his] scholarship about the family and the role of the household in economic production," according to Becker's University of Chicago colleague, Kevin Murphy. Scott Duke Kominers, a Harvard Business School professor who is a co-author, said Becker was working on the paper in the years leading up to his death, along with Murphy and Jörg Spenkuch of Northwestern University. As a recent Quartz article describes,
The paper helps explain the persistence of inequality, and why it can be so hard for lower-income families to move into the upper ranks of wealth. At the heart of the argument is the idea the rich parents can offer their children more advantages, and those advantages endure for generation after generation, defying the normal expectation that they eventually erode. In the way that poor families can be trapped in poverty due to what economists call neighborhood effects—the external factors such as crime and lack of access to high-quality education and healthcare—wealth accumulates in rich families because of professional connections, legacy admissions at colleges, and countless other factors that ease the affluent through life.
The Journal of Political Economy will publish the posthumous work in an upcoming issue.