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The intergenerational transmission of poverty in industrialized countries

Stephen Jenkins
Thomas Siedler


This paper reviews research about the intergenerational transmission of poverty in industrialized countries. In order to make our survey manageable, we restrict attention to studies that consider the relationship between parental poverty (or ‘income’) during childhood and later-life outcomes; we do not explicitly consider the impact of other family background variables such as parental education. The general message is that growing up poor has a deleterious impact on later-life chances, and that this impact is not wholly explained by other factors that are themselves correlated with childhood poverty. At the same time, the studies also show that one should be cautious about drawing more specific conclusions. For example, the degree of intergenerational persistence appears to vary depending on the definition of the outcome variable, and different estimation methods provide a range of estimates. In addition, most of research about intergenerational links has been undertaken using US data, and it is not clear that any specific conclusions should carry over to another country with very different social norms and institutions including e.g. differences in labour market regulation, and in systems of education and social security benefits. However we conclude that, broadly speaking, the analytical framework that has been used for high-income countries can also be applied to low-income countries.

Publication Type(s)

CPRC Working Paper


intergenerational transmission of poverty data childhood poverty USA south-north

ISBN: 1-904049-74-5


The intergenerational transmission of poverty PDF 227.3 KB

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