Families, social capital and educational outcomes

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

June 1, 2004


This paper engages with recent theoretical and empirical studies relating to the inter-generational transmission of social, economic and educational characteristics. It considers the different ways in which the role of the family has been conceptualized in this work and discusses some of the results of empirical studies of family roles in relation to education. Different approaches are categorized as having a focus on family background, on families as strategists and families as mentors. The paper then goes on to consider the way that various theorists have defined the concept of 'social capital,' in particular as this relates to educational outcomes and inter-generational transmission. The implications of different ways of conceptualizing social capital for understanding family processes relating to educational transmission are analyzed and examples are presented of the different ways in which the concept of social capital has been operationalised in empirical studies. The paper then goes on to present empirical data based on the British Household Panel Survey, a large scale and on-going interview survey in which the same people have been interviewed annually since 1991. A particular feature of the survey is that all members of a household are interviewed, including (since 1994) young people aged 11 to 16. The BHPS therefore makes it possible to locate individuals in the context of information directly obtained from other family members. The analysis presents different ways of operationalizing social capital and family processes in the BHPS data and presents some tentative results from an analysis of the relationship between these operationalizations and key educational outcomes.

Published in

British Journal of Educational Studies


Volume: 52 (4):390-416





not held in Res Lib - bibliographic reference only



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