The Impact of Economic Resources on Educational Attainment. Changes Over Time

MEMORANDUM No 2:2006 The Impact of Economic Resources on Educational Attainment. Changes Over Time By Marianne Nordli Hansen, University of Oslo.

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Previous sociological research has concluded that the impact of social origin on educational attainment is stable or decreasing. The analyses on the basis of which these conclusions are made usually do not include the cohorts entering education in the years following the economic recession of the 1980’s. If parental economic resources affect educational choice, as is assumed in explanations of inequality in educational attainment based on a rational action perspective, we would expect increasing levels of inequality. This assumption is tested out on a large sample including the total cohorts of Norwegians born between 1955 and 1984, thus covering the thirty-year period up to the most recent years. The main focus is on the impact of parental economic resources, which is measured as the mean earnings of father and mother the five years before leaving compulsory school. The analyses indicate that the impact of economic resources increased among the cohorts born around 1970 and onwards. In the same period the impact of parental education decreased on the lowest educational, whereas parental education has a stable effect on the highest educational levels. It is suggested that similar findings should be expected in other countries as well.

By Matthew Whiting
Published Oct. 10, 2010 11:19 AM - Last modified Jan. 19, 2011 8:50 AM