Trends in the Intergenerational Association between Mother’s Education and Adult Well-Being

Edward Berchick, Princeton University

As a result of the twentieth century’s demographic and social changes, individuals from different birth cohorts have grown up under the influence of diverse family, social, and socioeconomic dynamics. Yet there is considerable heterogeneity in this experience. Changes have disproportionately benefited families with better-educated mothers, leading to “diverging destinies” that may have lingering consequences over the life course. Using data from the 1972-2010 General Social Survey, I examine the trends in the intergenerational relationship between mother’s education and offspring’s adult self-rated health. Factors believed to contribute to this relationship have been reshaped through the demographic transition. Contrary to expectations, however, I find relative stability in the association despite sweeping macrosocial changes; the strength of the association only weakly depends on birth cohort. Furthermore, this stability persists in the face of various sociodemographic groups’ differential exposure to changes. Factors affecting mother’s educational opportunities nonetheless continue to have intergenerational implications for inequality.

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Presented in Session 38: Changing Economic Conditions: Effects on Health