Longitudinal and Life Course Studies
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How do grandparents’ and parents’ educational attainments influence parents’ educational expectations for children?

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  • 1 University of Minnesota, , USA
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Highly educated parents hold high educational expectations for their children, which influence children’s motivation and achievement in school. However, it is unclear whether grandparents’ (G1) education influences parents’ (G2) expectations for children (G3) independently of, or in interaction with, parents’ own education. We address this question using data from 477 families in the US Youth Development Study, which has followed a cohort of young people from adolescence through adulthood. Using mixed models to account for shared characteristics of children in the same family, our results demonstrate both main and interaction effects. First, they indicate that grandparents influence parents’ expectations for their children directly. Grandparents’ income and the educational expectations they held for their G2 children when they were in high school predict the G2 parents’ expectations for their own children, even after controlling G2 college attendance. G1 college attendance does not directly affect G2 expectations for G3 after accounting for other relevant family characteristics. However, G1 college attendance moderates the effect of G2 college attendance on their expectations for G3. If G1 did not attend college, G2 college attendance does not significantly heighten their expectations for G3. But G2 college attendance does significantly boost their expectations for G3 if G1 also attended college. We partially replicate these findings using nationally representative data from the US National Longitudinal Survey of Youth – Child and Young Adult cohort. This study highlights the need to expand the scope of status attainment research beyond the parent–child dyad to examine the influence of prior generations.

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  • 1 University of Minnesota, , USA

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