Human Nature

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 235–250 | Cite as

The Primary Parental Investment in Children in the Contemporary USA is Education

Testing the Trivers-Willard Hypothesis of Parental Investment
  • Rosemary L. HopcroftEmail author
  • David O. Martin


This paper tests the Trivers-Willard hypothesis that high-status individuals will invest more in sons and low-status individuals will invest more in daughters using data from the 2000 to 2010 General Social Survey and the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. We argue that the primary investment U.S. parents make in their children is in their children’s education, and this investment is facilitated by a diverse market of educational choices at every educational level. We examine two measures of this investment: children’s years of education and the highest degree attained. Results show that sons of high-status fathers receive more years of education and higher degrees than daughters, whereas daughters of low-status fathers receive more years of education and higher degrees than sons. Further analyses of possible mechanisms for these findings yield null results. We also find that males are more likely to have high-status fathers than females.


Trivers-Willard Parental investment Education Biosocial 



The authors would like to acknowledge the helpful comments of Joseph Whitmeyer, Yang Cao, Daniel Nettle and Lee Cronk on previous drafts of this paper


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of North Carolina at CharlotteCharlotteUSA

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