The Generational Boundaries of Educational Advantage: Does Great-Grandparent Educational Attainment Predict Great-Grandchild Early Academic Achievement?

46 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2021

See all articles by Megan Evans

Megan Evans

Pennsylvania State University - Department of Sociology and Criminology

Jonathan Daw

Pennsylvania State University

S. Michael Gaddis

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Sociology; University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - California Center for Population Research

Date Written: April 10, 2021

Abstract

Across how many generations do elders’ educational advantages directly benefit their descendants? For most of the modern history of stratification research, scholars believed it might only be one. Research suggested that any associations between grandparents and earlier generations’ educational attainment and descendants’ educational attainment were entirely mediated through intervening generations. The last decade of stratification research has upended this Markovian assumption. Still, it remains unclear how far back direct intergenerational education effects operate because most inquiries are limited to two or three generations. In this paper, we employ four generations of family data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to examine the association of great-grandparents’ educational attainment with their great-grandchildren’s early academic achievement, net of intervening generations’ educational attainments. We find that great-grandparent effects on great-grandchild early academic achievement are non-linear, modest, and entirely accounted for by the educational attainment of intervening generations and great-grandchild demographic characteristics. Thus, for early academic achievement, direct intergenerational advantage transmission is limited to three generations in these data. Examining three potential mechanisms of four-generational models of educational advantage — lifespan overlap, resource dilution, and genetic linkage — finds limited support for lifespan overlap, no support for resource dilution, and limited evidence on the genetic linkage mechanism does not support this hypothesis

Keywords: great-grandparents, education, academic achievement, multigenerational mobility, intergenerational transmission, stratification

JEL Classification: I24,J10, Z13

Suggested Citation

Evans, Megan and Daw, Jonathan and Gaddis, S. Michael, The Generational Boundaries of Educational Advantage: Does Great-Grandparent Educational Attainment Predict Great-Grandchild Early Academic Achievement? (April 10, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3824029 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3824029

Megan Evans (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University - Department of Sociology and Criminology ( email )

PA
United States

Jonathan Daw

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

Department of Sociology
211 Oswald Tower
University Park, PA 16802
United States

S. Michael Gaddis

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Sociology ( email )

405 Hilgard Avenue
Box 951361
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - California Center for Population Research ( email )

337 Charles E Young Dr E
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

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