The Generational Boundaries of Educational Advantage: Does Great-Grandparent Educational Attainment Predict Great-Grandchild Early Academic Achievement?
46 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2021
Date Written: April 10, 2021
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: Suggested Citation