September 25, 2014

Father’s education strongest factor in child’s school attainment

New research finds that the strongest factor affecting a child’s success in school is their father’s level of education.

A study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that children are seven and a half times less likely to be successful at school if their father has low achievement levels.

Comparatively, children are only three times less likely to be successful at school if their mother had a low level of education.

The study also found that British people with low levels of education were almost five times more likely to be living in poverty than those with a high level of education. Moreover, British children who grow up in a workless household are around one and a half times as likely to live in poverty as an adult. This link is more marked in the UK than in any other EU state.

Director of the Sutton Trust Conor Ryan commented: “This report shows just how important education is in breaking [the] cycle of poverty across generations.”

The reasons behind this are complex. Helen Barnard, policy research manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, suggests that aspirations are a key factor. She notes that “there is evidence that children and parents from poorer backgrounds develop lower expectations as children grow older – they stop believing that their children will be able to achieve high ambitions.”

IZA World of Labor’s Paul J. Devereux compiles strong evidence to suggest that investments in education will reduce inequality in current and future generations. He suggests that better-educated parents are more likely to invest more time and money in their children, thus enhancing their future labor outcomes.

He notes that policymakers can also implement less expensive measures to improve parenting skills, such as parental involvement programs in schools, which can significantly improve child development.

Furthermore, our author Tuomas Pekkarinen relates this debate to the notion of school tracking, asserting that delaying educational segregation weakens the association between pupils’ educational achievement and parental background.

Read more here.

Related articles:
Intergenerational return to human capital, by Paul J. Devereux
School tracking and intergenerational social mobility, by Tuomas Pekkarinen