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Does Your Parents’ Education Matter to Your Own?


Monday, November 25, 2019

How strong is the relationship between your parents’ education and your own?

“Very strong,” according to Ana Hernandez Kent, a policy analyst with the St. Louis Fed’s Center for Household Financial Stability.

In the video below from a recent Dialogue with the Fed event, Kent explains the likelihood of educational attainment persisting between generations. Using data from the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances, she focuses on Americans holding a bachelor’s degree or higher:

  • Those with “continuing generation” potential, meaning that one or both of their parents earned a four-year degree or higher
  • Those with “first-generation” potential, meaning that one or both of the survey respondent’s parents did not earn a four-year degree or higher (although the parents may have achieved a two-year certificate, have attended some college, etc.)

“The more experience and success parents have with higher education, the more likely it is that the adult children have a four-year degree or higher,” she remarked, adding: “If everyone had equal opportunity and there was just a 50% chance coin flip of going to college and getting a college degree, we wouldn’t see this relationship.”

Why such a strong link, then?

Kent discusses the significance of the so-called “hidden curriculum”—the unspoken rules one needs to know about college to navigate the environment, such as how to build relationships with professors.

She also notes the possibility that parent(s) with a four-year degree or higher may steer children away from certain private, for-profit institutions that could be considered “predatory.”

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Posted In Financial  |  Tagged ana hernandez kentcollegecollege graduateseducationdialogue with the feddwtfhousehold financial stabilityhfs