Skip to main content

Brother correlations in earnings in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden compared to the United States


The correlation in economic status among siblings is a useful “omnibus measure” of the overall impact of family and community factors on adult economic status. In this study we compare brother correlations in long-run (permanent) earnings between the United States, on one hand, and the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden) on the other. Our base case results, based on very similar sample criteria and definitions for all countries, show that this correlation is above 0.40 in the United States and in the range 0.14–0.26 in the Nordic countries. Even though these results turn out to be somewhat sensitive to some assumptions that have to be made, we conclude that the family and community factors are more important determinants of long-run earnings in the United States than in the Nordic countries.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Additional information

Received: 27 July 2000/Accepted: 7 March 2001

All correspondence to: Anders Björklund. Comments from two referees, conference participants at ESPE2000 and the Canadian Employment Research Forum, seminar participants in Aarhus, Uppsala, Bonn, and Stockholm are gratefully acknowledged. We thank NOS-S for financial support. The Swedish data collection was also supported by HSFR and SFR. The Finnish data were obtained with support from the Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation. We thank Tom Erik Aabø for preparing the Norwegian data, and Esben Agerbo for computational assistance with the Danish data. Responsible editor: John F. Ermisch.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Björklund, A., Eriksson, T., Jäntti, M. et al. Brother correlations in earnings in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden compared to the United States. J Popul Econ 15, 757–772 (2002).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

  • JEL classification: D1, D3, J62
  • Key words: Intergenerational mobility, earnings inequality, long-run earnings