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From Parents to Children

From Parents to Children: The Intergenerational Transmission of Advantage

John Ermisch
Markus Jäntti
Timothy Smeeding
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 524
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7758/9781610447805
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    From Parents to Children
    Book Description:

    Does economic inequality in one generation lead to inequality of opportunity in the next? In From Parents to Children, an esteemed international group of scholars investigates this question using data from ten countries with differing levels of inequality. The book compares whether and how parents’ resources transmit advantage to their children at different stages of development and sheds light on the structural differences among countries that may influence intergenerational mobility. How and why is economic mobility higher in some countries than in others? The contributors find that inequality in mobility-relevant skills emerges early in childhood in all of the countries studied. Bruce Bradbury and his coauthors focus on learning readiness among young children and show that as early as age five, large disparities in cognitive and other mobility-relevant skills develop between low- and high-income kids, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom. Such disparities may be mitigated by investments in early childhood education, as Christelle Dumas and Arnaud Lefranc demonstrate. They find that universal pre-school education in France lessens the negative effect of low parental SES and gives low-income children a greater shot at social mobility. Katherine Magnuson, Jane Waldfogel, and Elizabeth Washbrook find that income-based gaps in cognitive achievement in the United States and the United Kingdom widen as children reach adolescence. Robert Haveman and his co-authors show that the effect of parental income on test scores increases as children age; and in both the United States and Canada, having parents with a higher income betters the chances that a child will enroll in college. As economic inequality in the United States continues to rise, the national policy conversation will not only need to address the devastating effects of rising inequality in this generation but also the potential consequences of the decline in mobility from one generation to the next. Drawing on unparalleled international datasets, From Parents to Children provides an important first step.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-780-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. About the Authors
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. PART I Introduction

    • Chapter 1 Advantage in Comparative Perspective
      (pp. 3-31)
      JOHN ERMISCH, MARKUS JÄNTTI, TIMOTHY SMEEDING and JAMES A. WILSON

      Of all the potential consequences of rising economic inequality, none is more worrisome, or more difficult to study, than the possibility that rising inequality will have the long-term effect of reducing equality of opportunity and intergenerational mobility. The reasoning underlying this worry is straightforward. Families clearly have a strong interest in investing in the future social and economic well-being of their children. Although some of these investments may not require financial resources, many others obviously do—among them, paying for quality child care and early childhood education, buying books and computers, living in higher-priced neighborhoods with access to good public...

    • Chapter 2 Socioeconomic Gradients in Children’s Outcomes
      (pp. 32-52)
      JOHN ERMISCH, MARKUS JÄNTTI and TIMOTHY SMEEDING

      Social science has long been interested in the causal determinants of child outcomes. In sociology, for example, the origin-education-destination (OED) framework has offered illuminating insights into the patterns of association between parental origins and adult outcomes, and how children got there (Blau and Duncan 1967). In economics, among others, Gary Becker and Nigel Tomes (1979) have developed a formal model to examine how economic advantage is transmitted across generations.

      It is important to gain insights into the causes of intergenerational transmission. While there are examples of convincing analyses of the causal determinants of child outcomes (see, for example, chapter 7,...

    • Chapter 3 Socioeconomic Persistence Across Generations: Cognitive and Noncognitive Processes
      (pp. 53-84)
      CARINA MOOD, JAN O. JONSSON and ERIK BIHAGEN

      The study of intergenerational social mobility, or persistence, is concerned with estimating an association between the socioeconomic standing of parents and their children’s standing as adults. Established associations between origin and destination statuses (measured, for example, as education, social class, or income) are often used as prime indicators of inequality of opportunity (for reviews, see Breen and Jonsson 2005; Björklund and Jäntti 2009), and many studies attempt to trace changes over time or differences between countries in such inequality (Erikson and Goldthorpe 1992; Breen 2004; Solon 2002; Bratsberg et al. 2007; Jonsson et al. 2009).

      This research tradition also includes...

  6. PART II Early Childhood

    • Chapter 4 Inequality in Early Childhood Outcomes
      (pp. 87-119)
      BRUCE BRADBURY, MILES CORAK, JANE WALDFOGEL and ELIZABETH WASHBROOK

      The importance of the early years is now a mainstay of public policy discourse. Early investments are often claimed to frame the chances children will successfully navigate the series of transitions they must make in becoming successful and self-reliant adults. As such they have a direct bearing on the conduct of social policy in many countries.

      This perspective reflects a large and growing literature from a number of different disciplines on the importance of the early years. Eric Knudsen and his colleagues (2006) offer a particularly clear and succinct summary, but just as importantly they sketch out the logic of...

    • Chapter 5 Early Childhood Outcomes and Family Structure
      (pp. 120-139)
      JOHN ERMISCH, FRAUKE H. PETER and C. KATHARINA SPIESS

      Evidence is substantial that child development—and accordingly, children’s skills—are influenced by family characteristics, such as parental education and income and other factors that contribute to parental quality. This influence of family is especially important in the early years (see Cunha and Heckman 2007, 2009). Family-related factors contributing to parental quality seem to be particularly important, probably more important for the explanation of child outcomes than the quality of other caregiving and learning institutions, such as day-care centers or schools.¹ A large body of literature shows, for instance, that children with less-educated or poor parents do worse than their...

    • Chapter 6 Family Background and Child Outcomes
      (pp. 140-163)
      JO BLANDEN, ILAN KATZ and GERRY REDMOND

      This volume is concerned with understanding international variations in the intergenerational transmission of economic status. It has become increasingly clear that intergenerational inequality starts young; differences in very early development set the stage for inequalities by family background that last a lifetime. In this chapter, we use data from the United Kingdom and Australia to explore the relationship between parental education and indicators of children’s development over ages three to nine (that is, the transition from C1 to C2).

      We structure our analysis around the following questions:

      How persistent are early differences in cognitive and social and emotional development?

      Are...

    • Chapter 7 Early Schooling and Later Outcomes
      (pp. 164-189)
      CHRISTELLE DUMAS and ARNAUD LEFRANC

      Educational policy is usually seen as the meanspar excellenceto foster equality of opportunity and reduce the intergenerational transmission of inequality. Among the various policy instruments, pre-primary schooling programs have recently received considerable attention, notably among economists (Cunha, Heckman, and Lochner 2006). The arguments in favor of such programs are twofold. First, family background shapes inequality of individual success very early in the life cycle, as shown, for instance, in chapter 4 of this volume. Second, the likely existence of dynamic complementarities in the process of human capital accumulation strongly enhances the efficiency of interventions that occur very early...

    • Chapter 8 Intergenerational Transmission and Day Care
      (pp. 190-204)
      PAUL BINGLEY and NIELS WESTERGÅRD-NIELSEN

      In north america and Europe since the 1980s, a growing proportion of children younger than six have been in nonparental care while their parents are at work. By 2006, the majority (52.6 percent) of children below six in OECD countries were in formal care or preschool (OECD 2010). This is a huge shift in how children spend many hours of most days during their formative years. It will affect intergenerational mobility depending on the pattern of substitution between modes of care and the distribution of changes in care quality. For some countries, the irst generation of children involved in this...

  7. PART III Middle Childhood to Adolescence

    • Chapter 9 Child Skills and Behaviors in Intergenerational Inequality
      (pp. 207-234)
      GREG J. DUNCAN, LARS BERGMAN, KATHRYN DUCKWORTH, KATJA KOKKO, ANNA-LIISA LYYRA, MOLLY METZGER, LEA PULKKINEN and SHARON SIMONTON

      The degree to which grown children mimic the socioeconomic accomplishments of their parents differs markedly from one country to another. Using parent-child correlations in completed schooling as a measure of intergenerational persistence of socioeconomic status, Thomas Hertz and his colleagues (2007) find that correlations range from an average of 0.39 in Western Europe and the United States to 0.60 in Latin America. Correlations differ even among countries within general regions in the Hertz study: equality-oriented Nordic countries within Western Europe posted correlations that average 0.34, and the non-Nordic averaged 0.41.

      In a structurally rigid society, parents may be able to...

    • Chapter 10 SES Gradients in Skills During the School Years
      (pp. 235-261)
      KATHERINE MAGNUSON, JANE WALDFOGEL and ELIZABETH WASHBROOK

      The focus of this study is the development of socioeconomic status (SES) gradients in skills between the ages of four and fourteen in the United States and England, two countries characterized by high levels of income inequality and low levels of intergenerational mobility. Prior research provides ample evidence that sizable disparities in school readiness between children from more or less advantaged families are present at school entry in both these countries (Lee and Burkam 2002; Duncan and Magnuson 2011; Magnuson and Waldfogel 2005; Waldfogel and Washbrook 2009a, 2009b).

      In this study, we address the question of whether these early SES...

    • Chapter 11 Children’s Cognitive Ability and Changes over Age in the Socioeconomic Gradient
      (pp. 262-284)
      JOHN JERRIM and JOHN MICKLEWRIGHT

      There has long been interest in how differences in child outcomes that are associated with parental background may grow as childhood progresses. Parents from higher socioeconomic backgrounds with better levels of education and higher incomes may invest more time and goods into their children.¹ The resulting differences in outcomes, it is argued, emerge early at the preschool level and then are reinforced in childhood and the teenage years, despite the potential equalizing effect of compulsory education. The differences may be further compounded on entry to tertiary education and beyond into adult life. Various authors have produced evidence showing this pattern....

    • Chapter 12 Inequality in Achievements During Adolescence
      (pp. 285-308)
      JOHN ERMISCH and EMILIA DEL BONO

      The main aim of the chapter is to measure differences in mobility-relevant skills and outcomes by parental socioeconomic status (SES) among English children during adolescence and to compare the association between these skills and parents’ SES across a number of other countries. It uses the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE), which samples children born between 1989 and 1990 and links their survey data to their achievement results in the education system’s national standardized tests. It measures achievements at ages eleven (end of primary schooling), fourteen, and sixteen (end of compulsory schooling). In particular, we address the following...

  8. PART IV Late Adolescence and Beyond

    • Chapter 13 School Tracking and Intergenerational Transmission of Education
      (pp. 311-344)
      MASSIMILIANO BRATTI, LORENZO CAPPELLARI, OLAF GROH-SAMBERG and HENNING LOHMANN

      In studies of intergenerational mobility that attempt to describe its mechanisms and explain cross-national differences, the interplay between parental background and specific features of educational systems has been shown to play a critical role in determining individual educational outcomes. Here, the early selection of children into different educational tracks that lead to distinct and stratified labor market chances has been posited as one potentially important factor in the persistence of educational inequality. The main argument is that early educational choices are more likely to reflect parental background than the abilities and talents of the children.

      In this chapter, we study...

    • Chapter 14 Child Development and Social Mobility
      (pp. 345-369)
      ROBERT HAVEMAN, PATRIZIO PIRAINO, TIMOTHY SMEEDING and KATHRYN WILSON

      In this chapter, we track and compare the mechanisms through which parental resources and choices affect offspring childhood attainments in two neighboring countries—the United States and Canada—and, in turn, how these childhood attainments impact early adult outcomes of the same offspring. By examining multiple outcomes across different stages of childhood development, we are able to see how parental income is related to offspring achievement and at what ages the effect of parental income is most strongly felt in both countries.

      Early efforts to relate parental characteristics to children’s attainments within single countries were limited in the range of...

    • Chapter 15 Reform of Higher Education and Social Gradients
      (pp. 370-392)
      MASSIMILIANO BRATTI and LORENZO CAPPELLARI

      The first decade of the new millennium has been a period of profound changes in several European countries’ higher education (HE) systems. In seven government meetings (Paris 1998; Bologna 1999; Prague 2001; Berlin 2003; Bergen 2005; London 2007; Leuven 2009), many European countries set the main principles for the development of an integrated and coherent European Higher Education Area (EHEA).¹ The main changes, envisaged to promote labor mobility among member countries, involved harmonizing the structure of university programs, as well as introducing a credit system to facilitate mutual recognition of degrees across countries and higher education institutions (HEIs). We refer...

    • Chapter 16 Intergenerational Transmission of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skills
      (pp. 393-421)
      ANGER SILKE

      For the last few decades, societies in most developed countries have been characterized by rising economic inequality. Social science research has generated cross-national evidence that this rising inequality is closely related to less social mobility across generations. Literature has mainly focused on intergenerational income mobility and education mobility as the two benchmarks against which differences between the socioeconomic status of parents and their children are measured. However, although the intergenerational correlation of economic status is well known, it is much less clear what drives these correlation patterns. To develop policy measures that aim to enhance intergenerational mobility and reduce inequality...

    • Chapter 17 Parental Education Gradients in Sweden
      (pp. 422-440)
      ANDERS BJÖRKLUND, MARKUS JÄNTTI and MARTIN NYBOM

      Research into the intergenerational persistence of economic advantage that has emerged since the early 1990s has revealed several striking cross-national differences. Whether measured in earnings or income, the United States has, to the initial surprise of many observers, turned out to have the strongest intergenerational transmission of economic position among developed countries, whereas the Nordic countries have turned out to be relatively high-mobility countries (for example, Björklund and Jäntti 2009). Estimates for the United Kingdom are more mixed, but generally reveal lower mobility than in the Nordic countries (for alternative cross-national surveys of intergenerational income and earnings estimates, see Solon...

    • Chapter 18 Equality of Opportunity and Intergenerational Transmission of Employers
      (pp. 441-460)
      PAUL BINGLEY, MILES CORAK and NIELS WESTERGÅRD-NIELSEN

      As the motivating theme of this book makes clear, children must advance through a whole series of transitions at different points in their lives, which to varying degrees may all have a bearing on their ultimate labor market success as adults. This chapter addresses the relationship between parental income and the labor market outcomes of teenagers and young adults. This gradient refers to the relationship between family circumstances during adolescence and early adult outcomes. This is an important transition in a child’s life because it relates directly to some of the issues John Roemer (2004) addressed in his concern over...

  9. PART V Conclusions and Reflections

    • Chapter 19 What Have We Learned?
      (pp. 463-481)
      JOHN ERMISCH, MARKUS JÄNTTI, TIMOTHY SMEEDING and JAMES A. WILSON

      The most important motivation for the CRITA project and the preceding chapters is the concern that rising income inequality will have the long-run effect of reducing intergenerational mobility. The concern is motivated by the tendency, observed for generations born before 1970, for more unequal countries to have lower mobility. These same countries have higher inequality now than at any time in the past, excepting France, and the rank order of countries by annual income inequality is about the same now as it was for older generations (Brandolini and Smeeding 2009). This suggests that chances for mobility may have become worse...

    • Chapter 20 What Is the Justification of Studying Intergenerational Mobility of Socioeconomic Status?
      (pp. 482-488)
      JOHN ROEMER

      The studies in this volume focus on the effect of socioeconomic circumstances—particularly those of the family that raises a child—on the child’s performance, along a number of dimensions: in school at every level, in noncognitive behavior, and eventually in the labor market. The underlying presumption, though rarely stated explicitly, is that it is unfair if children from different social backgrounds systematically fare differently in life: it is a mark of inequality of opportunity. Fairness, therefore, would seem to require that the distribution of child outcomes be independent of the socioeconomic circumstances of the family that raises the child....

  10. Index
    (pp. 489-508)