Author's School

Brown School of Social Work

Author's Department/Program

Social Work


English (en)

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Nancy Morrow-Howell


Educational achievement among children is one of the most important concerns for most contemporary societies. While numerous studies have explored factors associated with children's educational achievement, little research fully incorporated multi-level, multi-faceted contexts of child education. More specifically, less attention has been paid to the role of macro-level, policy contexts and their interactions with various aspects of family-level resources. To help fill the gap in the literature, this study investigates: 1) the role of various aspects of family-level resources, that is family financial, human, and social capital, in children's educational achievement,: 2) mediating pathways among those family-level resources, and: 3) the moderating role played by family policy contexts in the relationships between family-level resources and child achievement. This study utilized data from the Program for International Student Assessment: PISA), large scale survey data containing information on students' academic achievement as well as other contextual information on students, families, and schools for 18 affluent countries. Data on family policy, derived from various other sources, were merged into the PISA. The dependent variable was standardized test scores of reading literacy. To measure various aspects of family-level resources, this study included a series of independent variables such as family financial capital: e.g., family income and wealth), human capital: parents' education), and social capital: e.g., maternal work, single-parent family, sibling size, parent-child interaction). Two alternative family policy measures were included as country-level, independent variables:: 1) a series of single family policy indicators, and: 2) family policy regimes grouped based on characteristics of family policy settings using the hierarchical cluster analysis. Missing data were imputed using the Markov Chain Monte Carlo: MCMC) multiple imputation. Random-effect multilevel modeling was mainly employed, and, to address potential endogeneity in random-effect modeling, a series of alternative econometric procedures were used including fixed-effect multilevel modeling, the Hausman-Taylor estimator, and the Bartel's approach. Mediating pathways among family-level resources were tested using the Baron and Kenny's approach reformulated for multilevel modeling. Study findings supported a significant role of family financial, human, and social capital in children's educational achievement. Further, family social capital: e.g., parent-child interactions) partially mediated relationships between other family-level resources and children's educational achievement. Findings also supported a positive role of family policy contexts; children in countries with generous family policy perform better in terms of reading achievement, compared to those in countries with weak family policy. Family policy contexts were also found to moderate the relationships between family-level resources and child achievement. For example, the negative impact of maternal full-time work on child achievement was mitigated by availability of generous family policies. Findings from this study provide additional empirical evidence to understand multilevel, multifaceted contexts of child education. This study also provides policy implications for the United States; that is, study findings calls for introducing and expanding family policies building on the current policy measures to enhance children's educational achievement.


Permanent URL: