This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Grandparents Matter

Those of us who are grandparents are firm believers that we matter, but social scientists in general are only slowly catching on to that idea. Grandparents matter enough when it comes to childcare in the US that the American Community Survey asks a question about that. However, a paper just published in the American Sociological Review suggests that a child's life chances are influenced by grandparents in ways that have tended to be ignored in past research, although their research builds on theories developed by Robert Mare, a past president of the Population Association of America and published in Demography in 2011. The current paper is "The Grandparents Effect in Social Mobility: Evidence from British Birth Cohort Studies," by two British researchers, Tak Wing Chan and Vikki Boliver. The article is not available without a subscription, but the title and the abstract give a good flavor of the argument:
The net grandparents-grandchildren association can be summarized by a single uniform association parameter. Net of parents’ social class, the odds of grandchildren entering the professional-managerial class rather than the unskilled manual class are at least two and a half times better if the grandparents were themselves in professional-managerial rather than unskilled manual-class positions. This grandparents effect in social mobility persists even when parents’ education, income, and wealth are taken into account.
They do add the caveat that these study results might not hold for other societies, and of course there are a lot of things besides grandparental status that influences life chances. But you can't count grandparents out. And, as a parent, keep in mind that you are influencing not only the lives of your children, but of their children as well.

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