Work Ethic and Family Background: Some Evidence


"Work ethic" - as measured by a person's willingness to be unemployed, collect welfare, or work long hours - is transmitted from parents to children. Using data from a survey of families over a twenty year period, I show that a child of parents who do not work and/or do collect government benefits for not working displays a tendency to behave similarly as an adult. Evidence is presented that suggests that the intergenerational correlation is not caused by unmeasured components of family income or by "unobserved heterogeneity." My results suggest that today's tax and expenditure policies not only affect employment today but also employment in the distant future. I provide some quantitative estimates of the long run policy impact.

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© copyright 1996, 1997 by Casey B. Mulligan.