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The Effects of Changes in Parental Employment, Partnership Status, and Residence on Children’s Educational Attainment


Background characteristics create a propensity for a certain educational path in life: a host of predictions can be made for children’s educational attainment by knowing parents’ socioeconomic status (e.g., Blau & Duncan 1967; Breen & Luijx 2007; Corcoran & Matsudaira 2005; Esping-Anderson 1999; Shavit, Yaish & Bar-Haim 2007), with some scholars making a stronger claim that there is a genetic heritability component to educational attainment (Branigan, McCallum & Freese 2013). Although educational attainment does not decrease over the life course, parental socioeconomic status, household composition, and residence are not necessarily stable across childhood. What happens when an event occurs that affects a family’s socioeconomic status, or when a spouse leaves a household? Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), my dissertation examines the effects of such “trigger events” (DiPrete & McManus 2000) in the form of employment, family, and residential changes among parents on their children’s educational attainment. My first chapter reviews literature relevant to all three combined projects. My second chapter looks at how these events are likely to combine and what the effects of such combinations are. The third chapter will focus on the time in the child’s life course that the events occur to see if there is time-varying effect heterogeneity. The fourth chapter divides the data into decades to assess how effects have changed over the past forty years. The fifth chapter underscores the connections between all my findings. Taken together, my dissertation provides insight into the complexity of life course disruptions and their effects on intergenerational mobility.

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