, Volume 54, Issue 1, pp 145–173 | Cite as

Short-Term and Long-Term Educational Mobility of Families: A Two-Sex Approach

  • Xi SongEmail author
  • Robert D. Mare


We use a multigenerational perspective to investigate how families reproduce and pass their educational advantages to succeeding generations. Unlike traditional mobility studies that have typically focused on one-sex influences from fathers to sons, we rely on a two-sex approach that accounts for interactions between males and females—the process in which males and females mate and have children with those of similar educational statuses and jointly determine the educational status attainment of their offspring. Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we approach this issue from both a short-term and a long-term perspective. For the short term, grandparents’ educational attainments have a direct association with grandchildren’s education as well as an indirect association that is mediated by parents’ education and demographic behaviors. For the long term, initial educational advantages of families may benefit as many as three subsequent generations, but such advantages are later offset by the lower fertility of highly educated persons. Yet, all families eventually achieve the same educational distribution of descendants because of intermarriages between families of high- and low-education origin.


Educational mobility Multigenerational Two-sex model Assortative mating 



We are grateful to Cameron Campbell, Hal Caswell, Thomas DiPrete, Mark Handcock, Benjamin Jarvis, Sung Park, Judith Seltzer, Florencia Torche, Shripad Tuljapurkar, and the Demography reviewers and editors for their valuable suggestions. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the Biodemography Workshop at Stanford University, May 6–8, 2013; the spring meeting of ISA Research Committee on Social Stratification (RC28), Trento, Italy, May 16–18, 2013; and the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, August 10–13, 2013, New York City. The authors received support from the National Science Foundation (SES-1260456) and benefited from facilities and resources provided by the California Center for Population Research at UCLA (CCPR), which receives core support (R24-HD041022) from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of California—Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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