Growing Socio-Economic Inequalities in Educational Attainment and the Role of Parental Wealth

Fabian T. Pfeffer, University of Michigan

This study documents growing socio-economic inequalities in educational attainment over four recent U.S. cohort. It considers differential trends in the impact of several components of family background, such as family income, parental occupation, and parental education. Most importantly, this study includes an analysis of the changing importance of parental wealth. Using all waves of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics since 1984 and drawing on new methods for the comparison of effect sizes in non-linear models, I show that the associations between parental wealth and different measures of educational attainment are strong, that they have grown significantly over recent cohorts, and that they have grown faster than other socio-economic gaps in educational attainment. These results raise serious concerns about the implications of rapidly growing wealth inequality for the educational attainment of today's children.

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Presented in Session 46: Educational Achievement and Attainment