Centre for the Analysis of Social Policy

Understanding the determinates of intergeneartional mobility and the processes underlying individual decision-making


Project rationale and aims

Find out more about this project

Name: Dr Matt Dickson
Title: Reader
Department: Institute for Policy Research
Location: 10 West 3.61
E-mail: md523@bath.ac.uk
Phone: work+44 (0) 1225 386736
Departmental themes

Initial research on intergenerational mobility in the UK documented the correlation across generations between education and income. A limited amount of research has gone further than simply describing and quantifying this; isolating the causal effect of one generation's outcome on the corresponding outcome of their children. Specifically, this research has looked at the effects of education, income, and the transmission of worklessness.

The challenge now is to go beyond identifying the causal links and understand the mechanisms at work that drive these causal relationships. This project is located at the frontier of this research agenda. The broader picture that this research addresses questions such as:

  • Why do children from poorer backgrounds (whether measured by parental education, income or any related measure of socio-economic status) have worse outcomes than children from better off families?
  • Why is it that greater family income and parental education lead to better child outcomes?
  • How does this ‘capital’ translate one generation's success into the next?
  • Understanding these processes is key to the policy responses that can ensure that opportunities are distributed evenly and that no child is disadvantaged by the circumstances into which they are born.

A key part of the agenda involves understanding the factors other than education and income that children inherit from their parents. For example, when young people take the major life decisions that shape their futures, they are guided by their preference for risk, their time-preference (or patience), their expectations of the future and their aspirations for what they want to achieve. Therefore, understanding how these preferences are formed and the extent to which they are passed from parents to children, is vital if policy is to succeed in improving outcomes – especially amongst poorer families – and break cycles of underachievement.