Like father, like son

Income levels of sons are often influenced by the income levels of their fathers, OECD research shows. The height of each bar on the graph measures the extent to which sons’ earnings levels reflect those of their fathers. The correlation is strongest in the UK, Italy and the US, and much less so in Denmark, Australia and Norway.

One of the factors determining wages is education, and in many European countries, individuals whose fathers had attended university earn substantially more than those whose fathers’ education stopped after secondary school. For instance, the study shows that in the UK, having a father who holds a university degree raises a son’s wages by 20% or more, compared with a son whose father has a diploma from a secondary school.

The study also makes clear, though, that parents can influence their children’s success in the labour market in a variety of ways, including by transmitting work ethics or building social networks. “Like father, like son” may be a truism, but it is not an inevitable destiny.

Economic Policy Reforms 2010: Going for Growth is available at, ISBN 978-92-64-07996-0

©OECD Observer No 278 March 2010

Economic data

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Unemployment: 7.3% Sep 2020
Last update: 10 Nov 2020

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