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Parental Education, Grade Attainment & Earnings Expectations among University Students

  • Liam Delaney

    (UCD Geary Institute, University College Dublin; School of Economics, University College Dublin; School of Public Health and Population Science, University College Dublin)

  • Colm Harmon

    (UCD Geary Institute, University College Dublin; School of Economics, University College Dublin; IZA, Bonn)

  • Cathy Redmond

    (UCD Geary Institute, University College Dublin)

While there is an extensive literature on intergenerational transmission of economic outcomes (education, health and income for example), many of the pathways through which these outcomes are transmitted are not as well understood. We address this deficit by analysing the relationship between socio-economic status and child outcomes in university, based on a rich and unique dataset of university students. While large socio-economic differences in academic performance exist at the point of entry into university, these differences are substantially narrowed during the period of study. Importantly, the differences across socio-economic backgrounds in university grade attainment for female students is explained by intermediating variables such as personality, risk attitudes and time preferences, and subject/college choices. However, for male students, we explain less than half of the socio-economic gradient through these same pathways. Despite the weakening socio-economic effect in grade attainment, a key finding is that large socio-economic differentials in the earnings expectations of university students persist, even when controlling for grades in addition to our rich set of controls. Our findings pose a sizable challenge for policy in this area as they suggest that equalising educational outcomes may not translate into equal labour market outcomes.

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Paper provided by Geary Institute, University College Dublin in its series Working Papers with number 201035.

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Length: 43 pages
Date of creation: 11 Aug 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ucd:wpaper:201035
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  1. Borghans Lex & Lee Duckworth Angela & Heckman James J. & Weel Bas ter, 2008. "The Economics and Psychology of Personality Traits," ROA Research Memorandum 001, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
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  3. Black, Sandra & Devereux, Paul J., 2010. "Recent Developments in Intergenerational Mobility," CEPR Discussion Papers 7786, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde, 2008. "The Intergenerational Transmission of Risk and Trust Attitudes," CESifo Working Paper Series 2307, CESifo Group Munich.
  5. Tom Hertz & Tamara Jayasundera & Patrizio Piraino & Sibel Selcuk & Nicole Smith & Alina Verashchagina, 2007. "The Inheritance of Educational Inequality: International Comparisons and Fifty-Year Trends," Working Papers 2007-013, American University, Department of Economics.
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  7. Jeff Dominitz & Charles F. Manski, 1994. "Eliciting Student Expectations Of The Returns To Schooling," Econometrics 9411002, EconWPA.
  8. Webbink, Dinand & Hartog, Joop, 2004. "Can students predict starting salaries? Yes!," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 103-113, April.
  9. Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, 2002. "The Inheritance of Inequality," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 3-30, Summer.
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