Intergenerational Sources of Socioeconomic Inequality in Children’s Reading and Math Achievement

Narayan Sastry, University of Michigan

We describe and analyze inequality in children’s reading and math achievement by family socioeconomic status. We examine the role of distinct components of SES in shaping the inequality across three generations. Our focus is on parent and grandparent income, education, and cognitive skills; however, we also examine the effect of parents’ wealth and neighborhood economic status. Data come from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and the PSID Child Development Supplement. We examine achievement test scores in math and reading for 2,000 children aged 5–18 years. The paper also illustrates the use of methods to analyze the sources of inequality in children’s achievement that incorporate multilevel regression-based decomposition and summary measures such as Gini coefficients and concentration indices. Our results show that there are strong effects of parent-generation socioeconomic status on children’s achievement; they also reveal limited direct effects of grandparent socioeconomic status on grandchild achievement after controlling for parent-generation socioeconomic status.

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Presented in Session 160: Multi-Generational Effects on Economic and Education Outcomes