Research Projects Using Growing Up Data

Intergenerational transmission of human capital: what makes and breaks the cycle of advantage and disadvantage?

Publication Date:
Lead Organisation:
Auckland University of Technology
Lead Researcher:
Leon Lusitini
Access Type:
Primary Classification:
Psych and Cog
Secondary Classification:

This project will examine the intergenerational transmission of human capital in New Zealand via an investigation of the link between mothers’ education levels and children’s cognitive skills at age 8 years using data from the Growing Up in New Zealand study. Three aspects of this link will be studied:

(1) Quantifying the strength of the link, using an ordinary least squares regression of children’s standardised cognitive test scores(vocabulary, reading, and overall cognition) on mothers’ educational attainment, both unadjusted (to capture the raw test score gap) and adjusted for a range of child, maternal, and family characteristics that may also influence cognitive outcomes.

(2) What ‘makes’ or produces the link, using a Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition to determine the contribution that differences in child, maternal, and family characteristics (including parenting practices) make towards explaining the raw gap between children of mothers with different levels of education.

(3) What ‘breaks’ the link, using a multinomial logit regression of child’s mobility status (‘upwardly mobile’ if mother has a secondary school qualification or less yet child scores in the upper quartile of the cognitive test, ‘downwardly mobile’ if mother has a degree yet child scores in the lower quartile of the cognitive test, ‘not mobile’ for all remaining children) on child, maternal, and family characteristics.

Findings will generate insights into the transmission of socioeconomic advantage and disadvantage within families and provide guidance on where policy responses should be focused in order to promote social mobility and equality of opportunity in New Zealand.