Parental health and social inheritance. The effect of parental disability on sibling correlation among Finnish young adults
Turku Institute for Advanced Studies Turku School of Economics Turku, Finland
Social and Health Policies Unit National Institute for Health and Welfare Helsinki, Finland
The effects of parental status on children's health and further, to children's own adult social status have been extensively studied during the recent years. The consistent finding is that part of the influence of parental status is transmitted to children's status through health. However, social mobility itself is largely unaffected by health differences and it may be that the link between parental status and the health differences of children is weakening in societies that become more equal.
Less is known of whether the health of parents affects health related social mobility and inheritance. Health of parents can have an impact on the children's social status in many ways. It may be that some parental positions are worse than others because they are associated with poorer health. Also, health can have effect independent of status e.g. because of its impact on incomes and social connections in the long run. Poor parental health can also have psychological effects that may, for example, have an impact on the educational choices of the children.
We employ Finnish census panel data, to analyse the effect of parental disability pension on the sibling correlation in early adulthood social class for the children born in 1966-70. The occupational data covers around 16.000 children in 1995 and 2000, who are matched with their parents.
The analysis revealed that even in a relatively equal society such as Finland, where social inheritance was generally weak, parental health problems had an impact on the inheritance of social status. For the siblings among those families in which at least one of the parents had been on disability pension during youth the sibling correlation was weaker that for the children in other families. In our paper we analyse the extent to which the effect is explained by parental status differences (before disability pension), the length of pension, differences in the permanent income accumulation among the parents and educational choice of the children.