Monday, August 19, 2013

Surnames, height and labor market outcomes

It is well-known that taller people do better on the job market, and people get taller thanks to better circumstances in early childhood. But the causation link is not necessarily that simple, as fortunate circumstances in childhood can affect other variables that themselves influence job market outcomes. But this is difficult to establish without the proper data.

Wolter Hassink and Bas van Leeuwen got interesting data from Indonesia. The dataset contains information about army pensioners, including their height, place of birth, ethnicity, religion, education and occupation. What the authors want to emphasize here is that social networks matter in the analysis and they use the surnames to determine which network, and thus social class, people belong to. How well one does both in childhood and on the labor market is determined by networks, they hypothesize. And indeed their empirical analysis shows that while height and labor market outcomes are linked, childhood circumstances and labor market outcomes are not. The story is thus not as simple as previously thought.

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