Causal Effects of Parents’ Education on Children’s Education

Publication type

Conference Paper


Intergenerational Mobility Within and Across Nations: The Transmission of Advantage or Disadvantage Across the Life-Course


Publication date

September 20, 2009


The paper shows that parents’ education is an important, but hardly exclusive part of the common family background that generates positive correlation between the educational attainments of siblings from the same family. But the correlation between the educational attainments of parents and those of their children overstates considerably the causal effect of parents’ education on the education of their children. Our estimates based on Norwegian twin-mothers indicate that an additional year of either mother’s or father’s education increases their children’s education by about one-tenth of a year. While estimates of the effects based on father-twins are about 50% higher for both parents, we have reason to believe that these estimates are biased upwards. There is some evidence that the mother’s effect is larger among poorer educated parents, while the father’s effect is larger among better educated parents. We also find that the effect of mother’s education is larger for daughters than sons.

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