Hybrid Format

The Impact of Kinship Networks on Occupational Mobility

Guest: Christoph Hess from the University of Cambridge
RESEARCH GROUP Kinship Inequalities, October 19, 2023

Hybrid Seminar Talk, October 19 from 11.30 am to 12.30 pm (CET)

Christoph Hess from the University of Cambridge will talk about his study on the impact of Kinship Networks on Occupational Mobility.


The influence of parents on the socioeconomic attainment and demographic characteristics of their children has long been the key interest of most traditional mobility studies. While a recent literature has begun to enquire into a wider circle of family members the focus mainly lies on grandparent effects. The role of other kin, such as siblings, uncles, and in-laws, by contrast, has received far less attention.

This study draws upon the genealogical records of the Qian Lineage in the Chinese town of Changle (Zhejiang Province) to examine the occupational relationships within this wider group of kin. The dataset consists of 18,268 occupational observations of people born between 1920 and 1989, within which 1,084 clusters of ‘family trees’ with a common ancestor could be identified. The study is still at a preliminary stage, but so far, we find that:

  1. The phenomenon of kin assuming the same occupation was widespread in agriculture, the manufacturing sector (especially electronics and textiles) education, government services, and construction.
  2. The likelihood of observing the same or similar occupations within kin groups varies between occupational groups, reflecting impacts of gender, overlapping life period, and the closeness of kinship relations.
  3. Linear regression analysis suggests a significant influence of fathers’ occupational status on their sons’ status, but it only explains less than 10% of the variance. The effect of grandfathers is not significant once father’s occupation is controlled for.
  4. Correlation analysis suggests a significant correlation between the occupational status of siblings.
  5. The geographic distance between kin broadly conform to Confucian principles regarding the priority of certain relatives over others, i.e. kin who are closer to each other in the Confucian moral order also living closer geographically. For cohorts born between 1920 and 1949, daughters were living closer to the patriarch of the kin group than sons, but we observe an inverse pattern for cohorts born between 1950 and 1979.

To go beyond the limits set by traditional regression and correlation analysis, in a next step, we plan to use methods from Graph Neural Networks (GNN) to develop models for estimating occupational scores and identify latent influences of kinship networks on individual occupational outcomes.


Christoph is a PhD student at the University of Cambridge, where he works with the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure. His PhD work focuses on key aspects of the economics of kinship and family in pre-industrial China (ca. 17C-20C), such as migration, family structure, and the role of kin on land and credit markets. 

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The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.