Although sons of fathers with high incomes tend to end up with higher than average incomes themselves, the new findings show that it's not just the cash that helps a son on his way.
Researchers at Brigham Young University in the US found that the human capital passed on from father to son -- in the form of smartness, work ethics and other intangible values -- could be more important to a son's success than the size of his daddy's paycheck.
The study, published in the Journal of Political Economy, found these human intangibles account for nearly two- thirds of a the overall relationship between the father's income and the son's, and that income had only a weak influence.
Prof David Sims, who led the study, said: "We know there is a correlation between fathers' income and sons'. What's got less attention is the mechanism."
"We wanted to see if the intergenerational income correlation is due to money -- what we can buy for our kids -- or if human capital attributes passed from father to son play a role as well," Sims was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.
On average, fathers with higher human capital endowments also tend to have higher incomes, so it's hard to tell which factor is doing what. Thus, the researchers used a statistical model and a rich dataset to try to disentangle the two.
They used government data of Swedish fathers with sons born between 1950 and 1965. The data included information of salary of both fathers and sons as well as clues about the fathers' human capital in the form of education levels and the nature of their occupations.
Fathers with more education or those who work in jobs that need specialised skills are thought to have higher human capital endowments that could be passed to sons. (More)