How to Model Parental Education Effects on Men and Women’s Attainment? Cross-National Assessments of Different Approaches
Keywords:intergenerational transmission of family resources
measurement of social background
European Social Survey
gender specific effects of social origin
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Citation:Ask: Research and Methods. Volume 19, Issue 1 (2010), pp. 21-50
Research in social stratification shares the assumption that social origin operates through assets embedded in the family structure, yet scholars’ opinions of how resources get transmitted intergenerationally vary significantly. The result of this variation in opinions is a range of measures for family background, and distinct empirical models. A simplified schema yields three main methodological approaches: (a) one parent’s characteristics models; (b) models using characteristics of both parents; and (c) models accounting for specific effects of social origin depending on gender. In this paper we analyze how models of each type perform when applied to cross-national data from the European Social Survey (Round 3). We focus on the impact of parental education on children’s success, while controlling for parents’ social class position. Individual success is conceptualized primarily in terms of educational attainment, but also of occupational standing. Although our analyses do not disclose consistent patterns across all studied countries--neither of the models performs uniformly better, or worse, in majority of countries–some regularities are noticeable. In particular, with respect to explaining educational attainment, we find that it is generally preferable to include measures for both parents’ education, rather than use one parent’s characteristics models. The best fitting model – in terms of explained variance – is that combining father’s and mother’s education by including an interaction term of these variables. In the case of occupational standing, we generally consider the model that accounts for father’s and for mother’s education as the preferred solution– at least when direct effects are statistically significant. In addition, the hypothesis that the intergenerational transmission of parental education affects men and women differently is, in light of these outcomes, supported only in some of the countries.
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