Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 1105–1132 | Cite as

Do smart parents raise smart children? The intergenerational transmission of cognitive abilities

  • Silke Anger
  • Guido Heineck
Original Paper


Complementing prior research on income and educational mobility, we examine the intergenerational transmission of cognitive abilities. We find that individuals’ cognitive skills are positively related to their parents’ abilities, despite controlling for educational attainment and family background. Differentiating between mothers’ and fathers’ IQ transmission, we find different effects on the cognition of sons and daughters. Cognitive skills that are based on past learning are more strongly transmitted between generations than skills that are related to innate abilities. Our findings are not compatible with a pure genetic model but rather point to the importance of parental investments for children’s cognitive outcomes.


Cognitive abilities Intergenerational IQ transmission Skill formation 

JEL Classification

J10 J24 I20 



We gratefully acknowledge helpful comments from Sandra Black, Michael Kvasnicka, Steve Machin, Regina Riphahn, Thomas Siedler, and Bernd Weber. We also would like to thank the editor and two anonymous referees for their valuable suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin)BerlinGermany
  2. 2.Institute for Employment Research (IAB)NurembergGermany

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