Does lineage matter? A study of ancestral influence on educational attainment in Korea

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European Review of Economic History 18 (4): 433-451

Korean families belong to clan lineages, bon-guan, that originated in the imperial Joseon period, 1392–1897. We can rank bon-guan by their average Joseon status, measured by the recorded number of civil service exam passers. In the disruptions of the Japanese occupation and the Korean War it is believed many families switched their bon-guan to more distinguished ones. Nevertheless from 1960 onward, when bon-guan became fixed again, there is a correlation between the average prestige of bon-guans by region in Korea and average educational attainment. This paper uses that correlation, and its decline over time, to measure the implied rate of social mobility in modern Korea. Implied intergenerational educational mobility is very low, much lower than conventionally measured social mobility rates.