Revisiting the Debate on Inequality: A longitudinal study using the British Cohort Study 1970
Title: Revisiting the Debate on Inequality: A longitudinal study using the British Cohort Study 1970
Author: PENSIERO, Nicola
Series/Report no.: EUI PhD theses; Department of Political and Social Sciences
This dissertation aims at reassessing of impact of family background, education and abilities on the educational and occupational outcomes of a British cohort sample (British Cohort Study 1970). This is pursued in three independent studies, each of which is presented as a stand alone chapter. Chapter 2 has shed some light on the relative importance of the dimensions of concerted cultivation in accounting for the children's differences in reading ability and locus of control across socioeconomic groups. The results show that it is the engagement in cognitively stimulating and reading activities and not the participation in organized activities more generally that enhances children's reading ability and the locus of control. Path analyses confirm that the selected dimensions of parent-child cultivation - parental expectations, direct stimulation, parental interactions with the school and children's engagement in cognitively stimulating activities - mediate the socioeconomic gradient in children's reading ability and the locus of control, even after controlling for the previous level of abilities. In addition, the effect of parent-child cultivation is stronger than that of parental socioeconomic characteristics. Using instrumental variable technique, chapter 3 detected both the upper bound and lower bound estimates in the range of variations of returns to education. The inclusion of pre-school ability and birthweight to detect the upper bound effect yielded higher estimates of the impact of education on occupation than did OLS models. The model designed to detect the lower bound estimate of the education effect used the mother's smoking habit during pregnancy as an instrument and yielded consistent and substantial estimates in some cases. These results are in line with a local average treatment effect interpretation of instrumental variables estimates of education which states that IV identifies the effects regarding only those who change their behavior as a response to the instrument-mechanism. As the competence accumulated before starting formal education increases the returns to additional education, most students will profit from attending schooling, although to a decreasing extent as we observe less and less able children. Only a minor proportion of children with extreme cognitive (dis)advantages will probably not take advantage of school attendance, at least in relation to occupational and cognitive outcomes. Chapter 4 has contributed to the research on the impact of so-called non-cognitive traits on socioeconomic outcomes. Drawing on strain theory, it confirms that the child's adaptive strategies as indicated by acceptance of school and goals of socioeconomic success capture key aspects of the non-cognitive processes in educational and occupation attainments. They also account for the bulk of the impact of parental background on the child's socioeconomic outcomes. The results are validated against other competing factors, such as leisure activities and psychological traits, which turn out not to be substantially associated with educational and occupational outcomes.
Defence date: 13 July 2012; Examining Board: Jaap Dronkers (formerly EUI/Univ. Maastricht) (Supervisor); Fabrizio Bernardi (EUI); Herman van de Werfhorst (Univ. Amsterdam); Jan O. Jonsson (Swedish Institute for Social Research).
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