Research Projects Using Growing Up Data

What role do parental values and aspirations play in intergenerational upward mobility?

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Lead Researcher:
Nicholas Watson, Isabelle Sin, Riripeti Reedy
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Secondary Classification:
Family and Whanau

The economics literature has convincingly established that the socioeconomic status of parents strongly predicts the socioeconomic status their children will achieve in adulthood. This research will investigate one specific mechanism through which this could occur, parental aspirations. We hypothesise that parents from lower socioeconomic backgrounds have on average aspirations for their children that are less aligned with academic and economic success, and that these aspirations, separately from other effects of socioeconomic status, affect the achievement of their children. We also hypothesise that, among parents from low socioeconomic backgrounds, high parental aspirations are one mechanism that helps children succeed in education.

We will use multivariate regression analysis to examine the relationship between parental socioeconomic background, parental aspirations for their children, children’s intentions for their own education, children’s early educational competence, and children’s sociability. We will use the rich data available in GUiNZ to control for other ways parental socioeconomic background could affect children.

We will also investigate whether parental aspirations matter more in some circumstances than others, whether aspirations less aligned with academic outcomes are associated with other desirable outcomes such as sociability, and how parents’ childrearing choices reflect their aspirations. Where higher parental aspirations do not translate into more favourable outcomes for the children, we will investigate the barriers that prevented this.

If our research findings support the hypothesis that parental aspirations are an important determinant of children’s early life course, it will suggest parents’ aspirations as an additional potential lever to improve the economic outcomes in adulthood of children with less advantaged beginnings in life.