The Causal Effect of Parents' Childhood Environment and Education on Their Children's Education

15/02/2009 |  Frish Roni
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Welfare Policy and Labor Market
Roni Frish and Noam Zussman
Abstract
This paper examines the extent to which intergenerational correlations in educational attainment (and income) in Israel are due to nature versus nurture. Parents' age on arrival in Israel as child immigrants was used as an instrumental variable, focusing on the mass immigration from Asia and Africa immediately following the establishment of the State in 1948. This wave of immigration was largely non-selective and the age of the child immigrants on arrival was independent of their families' socioeconomic characteristics and their cognitive abilities.
Based on a rich data set, the study shows that the older the children were on arrival in Israel, the lower their level of educational attainment, which reflects the advantage very young immigrants had in achieving a successful absorption.
Our main finding is that there is no causal effect between, on the one hand, the environment in which parents from Asia-Africa grew up and their educational attainment, and their children's educational attainment on the other. The intergenerational correlation in years of schooling, however, was statistically significant at about 0.2, and may be the result of non-environmental effects, such as heredity. Nevertheless, we cannot rule out the possibility that affirmative action policies in allocating resources within the education system weakened the intergenerational causal correlation estimated in the study.
JEL classification codes: I20, J62
Keywords: intergenerational correlation, causation, education .
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