Why Children of College Graduates Outperform Their Schoolmates: A Study of Cousins and Adoptees

53 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2010

See all articles by Torbjorn Haegeland

Torbjorn Haegeland

Statistics Norway; University of Oslo - Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research

Lars J. Kirkebøen

Statistics Norway - Research Department

Oddbjorn Raaum

University of Oslo - Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research

Kjell G. Salvanes

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: September 1, 2010

Abstract

There is massive cross-sectional evidence that children of more educated parents outperform their schoolmates on tests, grade repetition and in educational attainment. However, evidence for causal interpretation of this association is weak. Within a rich census level data set for Norway, we examine the causal relationship using two approaches for identification: cousins with twin parents and adopted children. In line with most of the literature, we find no effect of mothers’ education on children’s school performance using the children-of-twins approach. However, for adopted children, mother’s education has a positive effect, but only a third of the size of the effect found in biological relationships in adopting families. Carefully tracking the work experience of parents during offspring childhood, we find no support for the hypothesis that the small causal effects of parental education can be explained by detrimental effects of higher labour force participation among more educated mothers.

Suggested Citation

Haegeland, Torbjorn and Kirkebøen, Lars J. and Raaum, Oddbjørn and Salvanes, Kjell G., Why Children of College Graduates Outperform Their Schoolmates: A Study of Cousins and Adoptees (September 1, 2010). NHH Dept. of Economics Discussion Paper No. 22/2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1680473 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1680473

Torbjorn Haegeland

Statistics Norway ( email )

N-0033 Oslo
Norway

University of Oslo - Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research

Gaustadalleen 21
N-0317 Oslo
Norway

Lars J. Kirkebøen

Statistics Norway - Research Department ( email )

Kongens Gt. 6
PO Box 8131 Dep
N-0033 Oslo
Norway

Oddbjørn Raaum

University of Oslo - Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research ( email )

Gaustadalleen 21
N-0317 Oslo
Norway

Kjell G. Salvanes (Contact Author)

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics ( email )

Helleveien 30
N-5035 Bergen
Norway
+47 5 595 9315 (Phone)
+47 5 595 9543 (Fax)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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