Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Lindsey Churchill

Committee Members

Richard Alba

William Kornblum

Norman Storer

Subject Categories



This research is an attempt to further develop intergenerational research in educational achievement by refining the "Wisconsin Model of Socioeconomic Achievement." The data source was the 1972 wave of the "Panel Study of Income Dynamics" (popularly known as the "5,000 Families") collected by the Survey Research Center of the University of Michigan. This data, which contained families originally sampled and "spin-off" families that were created by the establishment of a new family by a member of a sample family, was reprogrammed so that the parental characteristics were linked with those of their offspring. The subsample was of all spin-off male heads under twenty-six who had a parental family sampled in 1972. The subsample is small and potentially unrepresentative, caution should be applied in generalization from the findings of this research.

Path analysis was used as the analytic device because it permits the calculation of both indirect and direct effects in time-ordered data and because it replicates the technique used by other researchers in the "Wisconsin model."

The "Wisconsin model" was developed to explore variables that would provide interpretive links between parental social statuses and offspring statuses. Earlier research has used educational aspirations, career aspirations, school grades, and disciplinary problems. The model is rooted in "symbolic interactionist theory" by the notion that behavior is, at least partially, the outcome of the perception one has of one's self based upon interactions with others. Previous research has demonstrated, however, that these self-perceptions are less important than structural variables such as socioeconomic background and evaluation by gatekeeping institutions.

This research attempted to use more refined socialpsychological measures of both parents and offspring as interpretive variables. Achievement motivation (nAch) was measured with a survey scale developed by the Survey Research Center. Other interpretive variables were: offspring I.Q., parental desires for their offsprings' education, number of siblings, parental occupation, parental education, parental I.Q., and parental nAch. Race was the only purely exogenous variable.

About 40 percent of the variance in offspring educational achievement was explained. The variables which had influence (in declining order of total effect) were: parental education, parental education desires, offspring nAch, parental I.Q., race, parental occupation, number of siblings, and parental nAch. Offspring I.Q. had a spurious relationship with offspring educational achievement.

This research indicates that parental characteristics seem to have strong influences on offspring educational achievement. Unlike earlier research on similar path models, however, the model developed in this dissertation is not characterized by a few clear, strong paths of influence. Instead, this model shows many influences, direct and indirect, but the pattern they follow seems relatively clear. First, parental characteristics that are obviously "educational" (parental education, and parental I.Q.) tend to influence offspring education the most and their influence is (except for that of parental I.Q.) direct. Parental characteristics that are not so obviously educational (parental occupation, parental nAch, and number of siblings) tend to be less influential and mostly indirectly, operating through interpretive variables. Secondly, the offspring characteristics that were expected to be interpretive, offspring I.Q. and offspring nAch, do not fill this function well. Offspring I.Q.'s strong zero-order correlation with educational achievement was found to be spurious. Offspring nAch, in contrast, is the third most influential variable on educational achievement, but largely independently rather than interpretively, because it is so little explained by antecedent variables. The conclusion, then, is that the higher potential educational achievement is and the stronger the aspirations they have for their offspring, the more education the offspring is likely to achieve. The model is unable to explain this linkage but it seems it is not very much through a generalized need for achievement or through the greater resources that a family with few offspring or high occupational position is likely to have.

Race has only small, indirect effects on educational achievement but these small effects are cumulative, making race the fifth most influential variable on educational achievement. Black parents tend to have lower educational achievement, measured I.Q., and less prestigious occupations. Their offspring tend to have less achievement motivation and more siblings. All of these characteristics lead to lower educational achievement. That all of the influence of race was indirect suggests that "overt" forms of discrimination are not very important in explaining the difference in black-white educational achievement levels.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.

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