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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Family Attainment Norms and Educational Stratification: The Effects of Parents' School Transitions

  • Author(s): Mare, Robert D.
  • Chang, Huey-Chi
  • et al.

This paper reports an analysis of the effects of parents' educational attainments on the attainments of their offspring, focusing on the effects of parents' school transitions. We test the hypothesis that whether offspring make a given school transition depends critically on whether their mothers and fathers have made that same transition. Using data for Taiwan and the United States, we show substantial effects of parents' transitions on offspring's transitions, even when overall levels of parents' schooling are controlled. We also examine variations in the effects of mother's and father's schooling on sons and daughters and interaction effects between parents' transitions and family size. In the United States, the effect of parents' transitions is large, pervasive and independent of the sex of parent, sex of offspring, and family resource constraints. In Taiwan this effect is mainly confined to the school attainments of fathers and its benefit goes mainly to sons. These results suggest that the presence or absence of the effects of whether parents make school transitions can provide concrete clues about variations in how educational stratification works.

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