This book derives from my 1993 University of Chicago doctoral dissertation entitled "Intergenerational Altruism, Fertility, and the Persistence of Economic Status." I enjoyed guidance from an excellent dissertation committee during the preparation of that material. Nancy Stokey was the chairperson of that committee, which included Bob Lucas, Gary Becker, and - unofficially - Xavier Sala-i-Martin. I was fortunate enough to have the feeling that I was completely unconstrained by the committee while at the same time learning volumes from them.
An entire book might be dedicated to appropriately acknowledging my committee; I use this paragraph to mention only the largest intellectual debts. Nancy strongly encouraged the empirical work, which, although I only appreciated it with a lag, both bolsters my argument and is an important part of what economists can contribute to understanding the transmission of inequality across generations. Gary contributed to this book in both interactive and noninteractive modes. I struggled with the idea of endogenizing preferences, thinking long and hard about Gary's 1976 book and his 1977 paper with George Stigler. Perhaps Gary was struggling with the idea too, because our opinions and emphasis appeared to change during our conversations about my dissertation, our emails concerning various drafts of his 1996 book Accounting for Tastes, and our various drafts of a paper concerned with modeling patience. "On the Methodology of Endogenizing Preferences" in Chapter 1 has changed from its counterpart in my dissertation as a consequence of these interactions with Gary. As a student is prone to do, I often got lost in the details of my dissertation. I was lucky to have Bob "remind" me of the crux of my argument, which he always did under the guise that he was the one who was trying to understand. I have also benefitted from many hours of Xavier's teaching and advice which began with my first economics classes and have continued in quality and quantity until the final draft of this book. I must also thank Nancy and Bob for, in a single day in April 1991, convincing me to leave Harvard and study at Chicago. I suspect that I would not have written a book like this if I had studied elsewhere.
I should point out that my committee did not have to support this research. When I (perhaps unwisely) distributed drafts of my dissertation to major research universities in an effort to obtain a faculty position, I learned that mainstream reactions ranged from outrage and loud disapproval to polite indifference. While they may not agree with sections of this book or even with its methodology and main argument, the committee always gave my work careful consideration and offered highly constructive suggestions.
I also appreciate the advice of several others. Robert Barro and Patti Macellaio read and commented on drafts of my dissertation. Comments on drafts of the book by Tove Edstrand, Claudia Goldin, Song Han, Larry Kotlikoff, Michael Kremer, Tom Mulligan, Derek Neal, Anna Sjogren, Margo Wilson and Irina Zavina substantially improved the final product. The research assistance of Song Han and Irina Zavina also resulted in important contributions. Chapter 13 has improved with my learning about principal-agent problems from Tomas Philipson.
Financial and computing support from the Department of Economics, the Division of Social Sciences, and the Social Science and Public Policy Computing Center at the University of Chicago as well as a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship are appreciated. The support came at a time when its marginal product was quite high.