Title

The Effect of Mothers’ Educational Credentials on Children’s Outcomes: Does Being a First-Generation or Continuing Generation College Graduate Matter?

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

7-2016

Publisher

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Abstract

We examine the cumulative effects of mothers’ and grandparents’ institutionalized cultural capital (educational credentials) on parenting approaches and children’s educational outcomes to determine if degree attainment in one generation equalizes educational advantages for children. Using data on kindergarteners, first-graders, and their mothers from the 1998 to 1999 Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, we find minor differences in parenting approaches: When grandparents and mothers all have college degrees (Continuing-Generation), children are involved in more activities and have more books at home; however, school involvement is similar whether mothers have more education than their parents (First-Generation) or are Continuing-Generation. There are no differences between children of First- or Continuing-Generation mothers in how they are rated for effort by teachers. Differences in first-grade math achievement scores between children of First- and Continuing-Generation mothers disappear once controlling for parenting approaches. However, significant differences remain between the groups in how teachers rate the children’s language and literacy skills, even after controlling for parenting approaches. These findings imply that attaining a college degree may not benefit the children of First-Generation mothers to the same extent that it does the children of Continuing-Generation mothers for some academic outcomes. Moreover, children whose mothers and grandparents have only high school diplomas are at a disadvantage compared to children of First-Generation mothers for first grade math achievement and language and literacy ratings, as well as for growth in these outcomes between kindergarten and first grade.

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