Author's School

Brown School of Social Work

Author's Department/Program

Social Work


English (en)

Date of Award

January 2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Michael Sherraden


Scholars have begun to pay more attention to the role of parental wealth in children's educational attainment. There is still no consensus on how different types of assets contribute to children's educational outcomes. Also, asset effects on high school dropout are not examined to date, and mediating pathways of social-psychological characteristics are more investigated with educational achievement: e.g. measured by test scores, GPA) rather than educational attainment. In response to these academic gaps, this study investigates: 1) the effects of parental assets in child's educational attainment from high school dropout to college degree attainment and: 2) the mediating roles played by parental involvement in child's education, child's educational expectations, and child's self-esteem in the impacts of parental economic resources on child's educational attainments. The study sample: N=632) is drawn from the Child and Young Adult data supplement to the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1979. Dependent variables are four educational attainments examined for 8 years since 9th/10th grade: ever dropped out of high school, high school completion, college attendance, and college degree attainment. To measure distinct impacts of different types of assets, independent variables include parental assets: net worth, gross financial assets, gross non-financial assets, and homeownership) and liabilities: secured and unsecured debts), along with income. Other parental and child's characteristics are controlled, such as child's cognitive ability, gender, race, school quality, mother's education and marital status, and urban residence. Logistic regression analyses are employed with weighted data, and the mediating effects are tested using Baron and Kenny: 1986)'s approach. Study findings support significant effects of parental assets in child's education. Income is significantly associated with high school completion, college attendance, and college degree attainment, but not with high school dropout. It is notable that the significance of income generally disappears when specific measures of assets and liabilities are taken into account. Financial assets, non-financial assets, and homeownership are generally significant predictors across all educational attainments examined, while net worth is significantly associated only with high school dropout. Another major finding is on mediating effects. Child's educational expectations partially mediate the effects of net worth and financial assets on the risk of high school dropout correspondingly. In addition, the effect of financial assets on high school completion is partially mediated by child's educational expectations. Empirical evidence supports the claim that innovative asset-building programs and policies, such as 529 college savings plans and Child Development Accounts, are essentially relevant and important to secure household assets specific to children's education and afford children more opportunities to achieve higher levels of education.


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