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MPIDR Working Paper

Socioeconomic variation in child educational and socioeconomic attainment after parental death in Sweden

Barclay, K. J., Hällsten, M.

MPIDR Working Paper WP-2019-008, 46 pages (May 2019).
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

Keywords: Sweden, education, mortality, parents

Abstract

In this study we use Swedish population register data to examine whether parental death differentially affects educational and occupational attainment according to the socioeconomic status of the parent who dies, and the socioeconomic status of the surviving parent and extended kin. That is, we examine whether parental death has an equalizing or exacerbating effect on offspring socioeconomic attainment, and also whether the socioeconomic status of the rest of the family plays a meaningful role in compensating for parental death. Using data on cohorts born 1973 to 1982 we examine five different outcomes, which are grade point average (GPA) at age 16 in high school, the transition from lower to upper-secondary education, the transition to tertiary education, overall educational attainment, and occupational status by age 30. We match families based upon antemortem parental socioeconomic trajectories. Overall we find mixed results in our between-family regression analyses adjusting for observables, with inconsistent evidence suggesting that losing a parent with very high socioeconomic resources is worse, and some evidence for a protective effect if the socioeconomic resources of the surviving parent and extended family members are at the top of the distribution. Using sibling fixed effects models that adjust for unobservable factors shared within the family, we see zero results for moderation by parents’ SES, but find consistent evidence that it is worse to lose a father at a younger age if grandparents have higher ranked occupations. We discuss possible interpretations of our findings.

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