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Education and Family Background: Mechanisms and Policies

  • Björklund, Anders
  • Salvanes, Kjell G.

In every society for which we have data, people's educational achievement is positively correlated with their parents' education or with other indicators of their parents' socio-economic status. This topic is central in social science, and there is no doubt that research has intensified during recent decades, not least thanks to better data having become accessible to researchers. The purpose of this chapter is to summarize and evaluate recent empirical research on education and family background. Broadly speaking, we focus on two related but distinct motivations for this topic. The first is equality of opportunity. Here, the major research issues are: How important a determinant of educational attainment is family background, and is family background--in the broad sense that incorporates factors not chosen by the individual--a major, or only a minor, determinant of educational attainment? What are the mechanisms that make family background important? Have specific policy reforms been successful in reducing the impact of family background on educational achievement? The second common starting point for recent research has been the child development perspective. Here, the focus is on how human-capital accumulation is affected by early childhood resources. Studies with this focus address the questions: What types of parental resources or inputs are important for children's development, why are they important, and when are they important? In addition, this literature focuses on exploring which types of economic policy, and what timing of the policy in relation to children's social and cognitive development, are conducive to children's performance and adult outcomes. The policy interest in this research is whether policies that change parents' resources and restrictions have causal effects on their children.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Erik Hanushek & Stephen Machin & Ludger Woessmann (ed.), 2011. "Handbook of the Economics of Education," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 3, number 3, June.
  • This item is provided by Elsevier in its series Handbook of the Economics of Education with number 3-03.
    Handle: RePEc:eee:educhp:3-03
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevierdirect.com/product.jsp?isbn=9780444513991

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    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

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    1. Erik Plug & Wim Vijverberg, 2003. "Schooling, Family Background, and Adoption: Is It Nature or Is It Nurture?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(3), pages 611-641, June.
    2. Hanushek, Eric & Machin, Stephen & Woessmann, Ludger, 2011. "Introduction," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
    3. Guyon, Nina & Maurin, Eric & McNally, Sandra, 2010. "The Effect of Tracking Students by Ability into Different Schools: a Natural Experiment," CEPR Discussion Papers 7977, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Pekkarinen, Tuomas & Uusitalo, Roope & Kerr, Sari, 2009. "School tracking and intergenerational income mobility: Evidence from the Finnish comprehensive school reform," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(7-8), pages 965-973, August.
    5. Diego Restuccia & Carlos Urrutia, 2002. "Intergenerational Persistence of Earnings: The Role of Early and College Education," University of Western Ontario, Economic Policy Research Institute Working Papers 20024, University of Western Ontario, Economic Policy Research Institute.
    6. Eric A. Hanushek & Ludger Woessmann, 2010. "The Economics of International Differences in Educational Achievement," CESifo Working Paper Series 3037, CESifo Group Munich.
    7. Gary Solon & Marianne E. Page & Greg J. Duncan, 2000. "Correlations Between Neighboring Children In Their Subsequent Educational Attainment," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(3), pages 383-392, August.
    8. Ann Huff Stevens & Marianne Page & Philip Oreopoulos, 2005. "The Intergenerational Effects of Compulsory Schooling," Working Papers 519, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
    9. Jonathan Guryan & Erik Hurst & Melissa Schettini Kearney, 2008. "Parental Education and Parental Time With Children," NBER Working Papers 13993, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Helena Holmlund & Mikael Lindahl & Erik Plug, 2010. "The Causal Effect of Parents' Schooling on Children's Schooling - A Comparison of Estimation Methods," CESifo Working Paper Series 3234, CESifo Group Munich.
    11. Hertz Tom & Jayasundera Tamara & Piraino Patrizio & Selcuk Sibel & Smith Nicole & Verashchagina Alina, 2008. "The Inheritance of Educational Inequality: International Comparisons and Fifty-Year Trends," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 7(2), pages 1-48, January.
    12. Caroline Hoxby, 2000. "Peer Effects in the Classroom: Learning from Gender and Race Variation," NBER Working Papers 7867, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Christopher J. Ruhm, 1998. "Parental Leave and Child Health," NBER Working Papers 6554, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Oddbjørn Raaum & Kjell G. Salvanes & Erik O. Sørensen, 2006. "The Neighbourhood is Not What it Used to be," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(508), pages 200-222, 01.
    15. Liu Qian & Skans Oskar Nordstrom, 2010. "The Duration of Paid Parental Leave and Children's Scholastic Performance," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 10(1), pages 1-35, January.
    16. Torbjørn Hægeland & Lars Johannessen Kirkebøen & Oddbjørn Raaum & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2010. "Why children of college graduates outperform their schoolmates. A study of cousins and adoptees," Discussion Papers 628, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    17. Eric Maurin & Sandra McNally, 2008. "Vive la Révolution! Long-Term Educational Returns of 1968 to the Angry Students," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26, pages 1-33.
    18. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2000. "Parental Employment and Child Cognitive Development," NBER Working Papers 7666, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Miller, Paul W & Mulvey, Charles & Martin, Nick, 1995. "What Do Twins Studies Reveal about the Economic Returns to Education? A Comparison of Australian and U.S. Findings," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 586-99, June.
    20. Philip Oreopoulos & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2009. "How large are returns to schooling? Hint: Money isn't everything," NBER Working Papers 15339, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. Fabrice Murtin & Martina Viarengo, 2011. "The Expansion and Convergence of Compulsory Schooling in Western Europe, 1950–2000," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 78(311), pages 501-522, 07.
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