Dalton Conley, Princeton University
TItle: What is “Family Background”?
Novel Insights from New Data and Methods
Abstract: As embodied by Blau’s and Duncan’s classic 1967 study The American Occupational Structure, stratification research used to treat the study of socioeconomic attainment largely as a process of social transmission from fathers to sons. The increasing presence of women in the labor market engendered feminist critiques of this paradigm; family wealth further complicated the notion of family background; and most recently, a literature on grandparental effects has additionally diminished the father-son link as the central axis of status attainment research. The present talk will present two studies that further complicate the notion of socioeconomic inheritance from parents to children. The first uses Swedish registry data to show a causal effect of non-dynastic kin on educational achievement—specifically, of cousins. The second study deploys genotype data to show how children—who randomly draw their genotypes conditional on those of their parents—actively evoke parenting that may or may not facilitate their attainment. Together these studies augur for a much broader and complex conception of how the family functions as a locus of social stratification.