Short-Term and Long-Term Educational Mobility of Families: A Two-Sex Approach

Demography. 2017 Feb;54(1):145-173. doi: 10.1007/s13524-016-0540-4.


We use a multigenerational perspective to investigate how families reproduce and pass their educational advantages to succeeding generations. Unlike traditional mobility studies that have typically focused on one-sex influences from fathers to sons, we rely on a two-sex approach that accounts for interactions between males and females-the process in which males and females mate and have children with those of similar educational statuses and jointly determine the educational status attainment of their offspring. Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we approach this issue from both a short-term and a long-term perspective. For the short term, grandparents' educational attainments have a direct association with grandchildren's education as well as an indirect association that is mediated by parents' education and demographic behaviors. For the long term, initial educational advantages of families may benefit as many as three subsequent generations, but such advantages are later offset by the lower fertility of highly educated persons. Yet, all families eventually achieve the same educational distribution of descendants because of intermarriages between families of high- and low-education origin.

Keywords: Assortative mating; Educational mobility; Multigenerational; Two-sex model.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Educational Status*
  • Female
  • Grandparents*
  • Humans
  • Intergenerational Relations
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parents*
  • Parturition*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Socioeconomic Factors