Socioeconomic Origin, Future Expectations, and Educational Achievement: A Longitudinal Three-Generation Study of the Persistence of Family Advantage
Expectations about the future direct effort in goal-oriented action and may influence a range of life course outcomes, including educational attainment. Here we investigate whether such expectations are implicated in the dynamics underlying the persistence of educational advantage across family generations, and whether such dynamics have changed in recent decades in view of historical change. Using data from a longitudinal three-generation study from St. Paul, Minnesota, we find intergenerational similarity in the relationships between parental educational attainment and children’s future expectations. Children’s educational expectations strongly predicted their academic achievement in the second generation (born around 1974), but not in the third generation. With educational expansion, the more recent cohort had higher educational expectations that were less strongly related to achievement. Overall, the findings reveal dynamics underlying the persistence of educational success across generations. The role of future expectations in this intergenerational process varies across historical time, confirming a central conclusion of life-span developmental psychology and life-course sociological research that individual functioning is influenced by sociocultural contexts.
Kaspar Burger & Jeylan T. Mortimer