Social Mobility over Three Generations in Britain

UoM administered thesis: Unknown

  • Authors:
  • Min Zhang

Abstract

Social mobility has been extensively documented based on two-generational associations. Whereas a few studies suggest that the approach related to social inequalities should be open to multigenerational associations, the topic of social mobility over multiple generations is still at its blooming stage. Very little is known about multigenerational effects on education in Britain and about empirical evidence of the mechanisms that underlie multigenerational effects. Drawing on the British Household Panel Survey and the UK Longitudinal Household Study, this thesis examines social mobility over three generations in Britain. The central aims of the thesis are to explore direct grandparental effects on grandchildren’s educational and class attainments independent of parental influences. In particular, it focuses on mechanisms through which grandparental effects operate. The thesis finds that grandparental class is significantly associated with grandchildren’s educational achievement, despite parental class, parental education, and parental wealth being taken into account. Regarding the mechanisms, the evidence suggests first that the impacts of grandparental class on education remain even though grandparents have passed away at the time of the survey, and second that the impacts disappear only when grandparents have only infrequent contact with the family. Furthermore, I find that grandparental effects are significantly stronger on grandchildren originating from advantaged parents than on those from disadvantaged parents, indicating the strong persistence of inequalities at the top of social stratification. The research also highlights significant, albeit modest, effects of grandparental class on grandchildren’s class attainment over and above parental influences. For grandsons, maternal grandparental class still matters even after grandsons’ education has been controlled for. In particular, self-employed grandparents have a strong impact on grandsons’ likelihood of engagement in self-employment, a pattern that holds true even when parents are not self-employed. For granddaughters, neither paternal nor maternal grandparental class is found to have a direct substantial impact on granddaughters’ class after granddaughters’ education has been controlled for. The thesis suggests that the conventional social mobility approach based on parentchild associations may overestimate the effects of parental characteristics and underestimate the effects of family origins. Family advantages run deep; they are maintained over generations in Britain.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Yaojun Li (Supervisor)
  • Anthony Heath (Supervisor)
Award date1 Aug 2018