Journal Article

Changes in sibling similarity in education among Finnish cohorts born in 1950-89: the contribution of paternal and maternal education

Lahtinen, H., Martikainen, P., Tarkiainen, L.
Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, 13:4, 496–526 (2022)
Open Access


Among the many social characteristics that run in the family, education is one of the most strongly persistent. The long-term changes in educational reproduction within families and across generations and the gender-specific drivers of these changes remain partially unclear. Using population data for all Finnish siblings and their parents, we assessed the level of and trends in the intergenerational persistence of education among cohorts born between 1950 and 1989. The variance in education shared among siblings was 37% and remained stable over time. Parental education steadily increased its explanatory power in the shared variance, from 30% among cohorts born in the 1950s to 40% among cohorts born in the 1970s and 1980s. The direct contribution of maternal education net of paternal education for sibling similarity more than doubled across cohorts (from 5% in 1950 to 13% in 1989). The direct contribution of paternal education (10–12%) remained stable. Same-gender siblings resembled each other in education more closely than their opposite-gender counterparts. The growing importance of maternal education over time, which surpasses the predictive power of paternal education, demonstrates an important qualitative change in the determinants of educational stratification. The growing importance of mothers’ education can plausibly result from the strengthening meritocratic achievement of women in education and the associated increase of women in defining the social position of the family. Incorporating the education of both parents in future analyses of intergenerational reproduction of education will probably be increasingly salient.

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