This study explores the relationship between parental educational similarity—educational concordance (homogamy) or discordance (heterogamy)—and children’s health outcomes. Its contribution is threefold. First and foremost, I use longitudinal data on children’s health outcomes tracking children from age 1 to 15, thus being able to assess whether the relationship changes at key life-course and developmental stages of children. This is an important addition to the relevant literature, where the focus is solely on outcomes at birth. Second, I look at different health outcomes, namely height-for-age (HFA) and BMI-for-age (BFA) z-scores, alongside their dichotomized counterparts, stunting and thinness. Third, I conduct the same set of analyses in Ethiopia, India, Peru, and Vietnam, thus providing multi-context evidence from countries at different levels of development and with different socio-economic characteristics and gender dynamics. Results reveal important heterogeneity across contexts. In Ethiopia and India, parental educational homogamy is associated with worse health outcomes in infancy and childhood, while associations are positive in Peru and, foremost, Vietnam. Complementary estimates from matching techniques show that these associations tend to fade after age 1, except in Vietnam, where the positive relationship persists through adolescence, thus supporting the homogamy-benefit hypothesis not only at birth, but also across the early life course. Insights from this study contribute to the inequality debate on the intergenerational transmission of advantage and disadvantage and shed additional light on the relationship between early-life conditions and later-life outcomes in critical periods of children’s lives.
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Parental educational similarity and parental educational homogamy are synonyms. Conversely, educational hypogamy refers to a situation in which the female partner has higher education than the male partner, while educational hypergamy refers to a situation in which the male partner has higher education than the female partner.
Although it is not possible to distinguish between, for instance, labor migration and family instability, a decrease in the percentage of children living in the same household with both parents over their life course is observed in all four countries. For instance, conditional on both parents being alive at the time of the survey, in Ethiopia 69 percent of children live with both parents at age 8, 61 percent at age 12, and 55 percent at age 15. The same estimates are 90, 80, and 75 percent in India; 73, 66, and 59 percent in Peru; and 88, 78, and 71 percent in Vietnam.
Educationally heterogamous couples can be hypogamous if the difference is negative or hypergamous if the difference is positive.
For additional details, Online Figure A1 in Reynolds et al. (2017) is also insightful as it illustrates the distribution of parental schooling pairs showing the schooling levels that are coded with integer values 0–9.
Only younger siblings are considered here because I include birth order—another way of measuring the number of older siblings—as another control.
For robustness checks reported in the Online Appendix (except for Table A3), only two specifications per outcome are reported, namely NC (no controls) and FULL (all set of controls included).
Note that the number of children with mothers with upper secondary or tertiary education is very low in Ethiopia and India (less than 5 percent of the sample), thus by construction limiting the absolute number of educationally homogamous couple pairings at the top of the distribution (the ones in the graph are proportions).
The discrepancies highlighted here are in line with previous findings and comparisons that were made between the YL survey and nationally representative statistics. The Ethiopian sample was compared with the 2000 DHS and the 2000 Welfare Monitoring Survey. The analyses showed that households in the Young Lives sample were slightly better off and had better access to basic services than the average household in Ethiopia. The Indian sample was compared with the 1998/9 DHS. The analysis showed that households in the Young Lives sample were slightly wealthier than households in the DHS sample. The Vietnam sample was compared with the 2002 DHS and the 2002 Vietnam Household Living Standard Survey. The analysis showed that households in the Young Lives sample were slightly poorer than the households in the other samples. The Peru sample was compared with the 2000 DHS, the 2001 Peru Living Standard Measurement Survey (LSMS), and the 2005 National Census. The analysis showed that the poverty rates of the Young Lives sample were similar to the urban and rural averages derived from the LSMS, and slightly wealthier than households in the DHS.
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The author acknowledges financial support for this paper through the Faculty of Arts at McGill University and through the Global Family Change (GFC) Project (http://web.sas.upenn.edu/gfc), a collaboration between the University of Pennsylvania, University of Oxford (Nuffield College), Bocconi University, and the Centro de Estudios Demogràficos (CED) at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Funding for the GFC Project is provided through NSF Grant No. 1729185 (PIs: Kohler & Furstenberg), ERC Grant 694262 (PI: Billari), ERC Grant 681546 (PI: Monden), the Population Studies Center and the University Foundation at the University of Pennsylvania, and the John Fell Fund and Nuffield College at the University of Oxford. The author also wishes to thank the Editor and two anonymous referees.
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Pesando, L.M. A Four-Country Study on the Relationship Between Parental Educational Homogamy and Children’s Health from Infancy to Adolescence. Popul Res Policy Rev 41, 251–284 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11113-020-09627-2
- Educational homogamy
- Child health
- Longitudinal data
- Low- and middle-income countries