Kevin Lewis

May 12, 2023

Educational Attainment and Intergenerational Mobility: A Polygenic Score Analysis
Aldo Rustichini et al.
Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming 


We extend a standard model of parental investment and intergenerational mobility to include a fully specified genetic analysis of skill transmission. The model’s predictions differ substantially from standard model’s. The coefficient of intergenerational income elasticity (IGE) may be larger than in the standard model, and depends on distribution of the genotype. The distribution of genetic endowments may be stratified according to income. The model is tested on data, including genetic information, of twins and their parents, estimating how IGE is affected by genetic factors, and how environment and genes interact. The effect of intelligence is substantially stronger than other traits’.

Growing up poor but doing well: Contextual factors that predict academic success
Radha Jagannathan et al.
Journal of Economic Inequality, March 2023, Pages 169–200 


This paper combines data on family, school, neighborhood, and city contexts with survey data from the Year 9 (n = 2,193) and Year 15 (n = 2, 236) Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to study children in America’s inner-cities who are “beating the odds”. We identify children as beating the odds if they were born to families of low socio-economic status but scored above the state average in reading, vocabulary and math at age 9, and were academically on-track by age 15. We also examine if the influences of these contexts are developmentally nuanced. We find that living in two parent households where harsh parenting methods are absent (family context) and living in neighborhoods where two parent families predominate (neighborhood context) are protective factors that help children beat the odds. We also find that city-wide contexts of higher levels of religiosity and fewer single parent households contribute to children beating the odds, however, these macro predictors are weaker when compared with family/neighborhood contexts. We find that these contextual effects are indeed developmentally nuanced. We conclude with a discussion of some interventions and policies that could help increase the number of at-risk children who beat the odds.

Wage Inequality in American Manufacturing, 1820-1940: New Evidence
Jeremy Atack, Robert Margo & Paul Rhode
NBER Working Paper, April 2023 


The consensus view among economic historians is that wage inequality in American manufacturing followed an inverted-U path from the early nineteenth century until just before World War Two. The previous literature, however, has been unable to fully document this path over time, or fully assess the role of explanatory factors such as changes in firm organization and technology. We provide fresh evidence that allow us to better document the inverted-U and its causes. In the first part of the paper, we use the U.S. Department of Labor’s 1899 “Hand and Machine Labor” study to argue that wage inequality within manufacturing establishments rose over the nineteenth century, primarily because of increasing division of labor. In the second part, we use data for Massachusetts from state reports to construct a new time series on wage inequality among production workers, which declined from the early 1890s to the late 1930s, mainly because of compression in the left tail of the distribution. Analysis of industry panel data suggest that electrification was the main factor behind the compression.

The relationship between social class and unethical and prosocial (traffic) behavior: Two naturalistic replication studies
Tobias Greitemeyer
Social Influence, April 2023 


Whereas some previous studies have shown that upper-class individuals are more unethical and less prosocial than lower-class individuals, other studies reported contradictory results. The present research provides two replication attempts by examining whether upper-class drivers would be more likely to cut off a pedestrian at a marked crosswalk (Study 1) and less likely to let a pedestrian cross an unmarked pedestrian crossing (Study 2) than lower-class drivers. In both studies, the vehicle status as an index of the social class of the driver was not significantly related to whether the driver let the pedestrian cross the street. Overall, it appears that the associations between social class and unethical behavior and prosocial behavior are less robust and generalizable than initially thought.

Spatial Influences in Upward Mobility
Garrett Anstreicher
Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming 


This paper extends a canonical model of intergenerational human capital investment to a geographic context to study the role of migration in influencing income mobility in the United States. The main result is that migration is considerably influential in shaping the high rates of economic mobility observed among children from low-wage areas, with human capital investment behavioral responses being important to consider. Equalizing school quality across locations does more to reduce interstate inequality in income mobility than equalizing skill prices, and policies that attempt to decrease human capital flight from low-wage areas via cash transfers are unlikely to be cost-effective.

Sibship and Inequality Beliefs: Do Siblings Have a Liberalizing or Conservatizing Effect?
Joseph Merry & Donna Bobbitt-Zeher
Sociological Inquiry, forthcoming 


How do individuals come to hold certain beliefs about meritocracy, individualism, and redistribution? Several sociodemographic factors are regularly used to understand variation in these beliefs, but other predictors remain untested. Meanwhile, scholars studying family dynamics are increasingly turning their attention toward the long-term social effects of distinct family features. One facet of this work focuses on the social role of siblings. We investigate the relationship at the intersection of these literatures. How does growing up with (more) siblings influence one's inequality beliefs? Do siblings promote collectivism or might these same relationships foster competition and individualism? Could trust be the mechanism connecting sibship size with inequality beliefs? Or, do sibling effects reflect a broader promotion of conservative thinking in larger families? We investigate these questions using data from the General Social Survey from 1984 to 2018. Our results indicate that siblings are associated with more conservative meritocracy beliefs. On the other hand, we find limited evidence of siblings influencing attitudes toward redistribution.

A Grand Socioeconomic Reshuffle: The One-Child Policy and Intergenerational Mobility in China
Shanthi Manian, Qi Zhang & Bin Zhao
Washington State University Working Paper, December 2022 


We examine whether and how the world’s largest population planning program, the One-Child Policy, has shaped intergenerational mobility in China. Using a dataset with 2,096,798 child-parent(s) pairs combined from various rounds of ten separate national household surveys, we leverage exogenous variation in fine rates imposed for One-Child Policy violations across provinces to study causal impacts of the One-Child Policy on intergenerational persistence. Using a continuous difference-in-differences approach, we find that for cohorts born between 1980 and 1996, the One-Child Policy reduced persistence in intergenerational income, education, and social class, comparing to those born prior to 1979. We estimate that the overall effect of the One-Child Policy fines was to reduce persistence in intergenerational income, education, and social class by 28.1%, 48.7%, and 24.8%, respectively. Analyzing mechanisms, we find that the One-Child Policy boosted China’s intergenerational mobility by diminishing elite family heirship, concentrating resources for lower-income families, and decreasing returns to education. The One-Child Policy has brought about a significant socioeconomic reshuffle that has reshaped the role of China’s longstanding class solidification.

The Gap Between Us: Income Inequality Reduces Social Affiliation in Dyadic Interactions
Daniel Stancato, Dacher Keltner & Serena Chen
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming 


In this investigation, we tested the hypothesis that increased income inequality between individuals will reduce social affiliation within dyadic interactions. In three experiments, we examined the effects of income inequality on key indices of affiliation using semi-structured interactions. In the first two experiments, a participant and confederate were randomly assigned to a low- or high-power role and compensated mildly or extremely unequally. In Experiment 3, inequality and inequity were orthogonally manipulated to determine whether inequality’s social consequences are moderated by the fairness of the income distribution. We demonstrated that greater inequality produced more negative emotional responses, reduced desire for closeness, and harsher evaluations of one’s partner, regardless of one’s power role and the equitability of the income distribution. We also obtained evidence that greater inequality reduces behavioral warmth, although this effect was less consistent. Our results begin to unpack the psychological processes through which income inequality worsens societal well-being.

The effect of Black–White income inequality on perceived interracial psychological outcomes via perceived interracial competition 
Jonathan Gordils, Jeremy Jamieson & Andrew Elliot
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming 


This research examined the influence of Black–White income inequality on negative interracial psychological outcomes and the role of perceived interracial competition as a mediational mechanism. The research utilized three different designs across three preregistered experiments to assess the proposed processes. Study 1 (N = 846) used a measurement-of-mediation design and found that participants assigned to the high racial income gap condition reported more perceived interracial competition, discrimination, avoidance, and anxiety relative to those in the low racial income gap condition. Effects were mediated by increased perceptions of interracial competition. Studies 2a (n = 827) and 2b (n = 841) used an experimental-causal-chain design and replicated the effect of the racial income gap condition on increased perceptions of interracial competition (Study 2a) and showed that participants in the high perceived interracial competition condition -- the manipulated mechanism -- exhibited greater perceived discrimination, anxiety, and mistrust relative to those in the low perceived interracial competition condition (Study 2b). Study 3 (N = 1,583) diversified the sample by recruiting similar numbers of Black (n = 796) and White (n = 787) participants and used a moderation-of-process design by simultaneously manipulating the racial income gap and perceived interracial competition. Competition moderated effects: Inequality effects were stronger for those in the high competition condition. Implications for theory development are discussed.

Dominance versus Prestige Hierarchies: How Social Hierarchy Base Shapes Conspicuous Consumption
Perrine Desmichel & Derek Rucker
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming 


Consumers are known to seek out and display conspicuous goods— items that are exclusive and signal wealth and high social standing. Though many factors can drive such conspicuous consumption, the present work looks at an unexplored element: whether consumers find themselves in a dominance versus prestige-based hierarchy. Dominance-based hierarchies encourage consumers to use threatening, assertive and manipulative behaviors to navigate the hierarchy. In contrast, prestige-based hierarchies encourage consumers to show their talent, skills and motivation to operate within the hierarchy. The present research reveals how these two main bases of hierarchy shape consumers’ consumption of conspicuous goods. Specifically, dominance, relative to prestige hierarchies, are proposed to foster greater social anxiety, which leads people to seek conspicuous goods as a means of psychological security. Consequently, dominance-based hierarchies are more likely to encourage conspicuous consumption relative to prestige-based hierarchies. Multiple experiments, which utilize real employees’ behaviors, experimental manipulations of hierarchy, as well as incentivize-compatible decisions, reveal that dominance-based hierarchies, relative to prestige-based hierarchies, increase consumers’ preference for conspicuous goods. Moreover, evidence for a psychological mechanism in the form of social anxiety is demonstrated via both mediation and moderation.

Social R&D: Does Academic Freedom Contribute to Improved Societal Outcomes?
Alberto Posso & Quanda Zhang
Information Economics and Policy, forthcoming 


The economics literature views R&D as an important conduit for growth because it generates new ideas that can be translated into technological innovations. Some of this R&D occurs in universities, making academic freedom an important part of this process. This literature ignores the potential role that academic research in the social sciences plays toward achieving non-commercial societal outcomes. We bridge this gap by proposing that academia generates social R&D. We posit that greater degrees of academic freedom allow for social R&D to flourish and be transformed into policies that improve societal conditions. We test our hypothesis by studying the relationship between academic freedom and inequality using panel data of 132 countries over the 1967-2018 period. We measure academic freedom using an index developed by the V-Dem Institute. Our econometric analysis suggests that an increase in the index is associated with a decrease in inequality. We employ instrumental variable and interactive fixed effects techniques to try to lend support to the causal relationship between academic freedom and inequality. We argue that this negative relationship can be explained by academia, predominantly the social sciences, exerting pressure on governments to enact policies that redistribute wealth. We find evidence in support of this mechanism using data from other sources.


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