Intergenerational Correlations in Longevity
While there is substantial research on the intergenerational persistence of economic outcomes such as income and wealth, much less is known about intergenerational persistence in health. We examine the correlation in longevity (an overall measure of health) across generations using a unique dataset containing information about more than 26 million families obtained from the Family Search Family Tree. We find that the intergenerational correlation in longevity is 0.09 and rises to 0.14 if we consider the correlation between children and the average of their parents' longevity. This intergenerational persistence in longevity is much smaller than that of persistence in socio-economic status and lower than existing correlations in health. Moreover, this correlation remained low throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries despite dramatic changes in longevity and its determinants. We also document that the correlations in longevity and in education are largely independent of each other. These patterns are likely explained by the fact that stochastic factors play a large role in the determination of longevity, larger than for other outcomes.
This project was funded by the California Center for Population Research at UCLA (CCPR), which receives core support (P2C- HD041022) from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Black received funding from the Research Council of Norway through its Centres of Excellence Scheme, FAIR project No 262675. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.