Parent involvement in schools, the intergenerational transfer of occupational and economic success, and the grouping of students: Lessons from suburbia

Daniel Joseph McGrath, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

This is a study of the influence of parent involvement in schools on children's later occupational and economic success, as well as on the grouping of children in tracks and programs in schools. I looked first at the relationship between community, school, and within-school characteristics that parents can influence and the transmission of socioeconomic success across generations. Using a sample of 3,828 respondents from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, I found the influence of family background on students' community, school, and within-school placements explained 9.0 percent of the variance in men's occupational success as 29-year-olds and 6.2 percent of the variance in women's occupational success. However, it explained only 2.4 percent of the variance in women's wages as 28-year-olds and 1.9 percent of the variance in men's wages. One body of parent involvement research had linked parent involvement to student achievement. My findings, however, suggested that parent involvement had little relationship to later socioeconomic outcomes. A second body of parent involvement research suggested social class-based differences in parent involvement in children's track and program placements. These differences might impact the distribution of children in tracks and programs. In the study's second part, I looked at parent involvement in the placement of students in tracks and programs within schools. Using field notes from a year's participant-observation at a suburban school district, I found that involved, elite parents often sought to separate their children from lower status children through promoting ability tracking and requesting that their children be placed in special programs and in the highest ability tracks. This had substantial impacts on the size and composition of some tracks and programs. Third, I looked at a set of contextual factors that helped explain parents' involvement in the grouping of students. These contextual factors included the socioeconomic class and race/ethnicity of both local educators and mothers; parents' and educators' differing needs concerning schools; children's changing grade and school levels; and the schools' attitudes toward parent involvement. The contextual factors tended to encourage parent involvement focused on the placement of their own individual students in tracks and programs parents thought advantageous. ^

Subject Area

Education, Sociology of|Education, Administration|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

Recommended Citation

Daniel Joseph McGrath, "Parent involvement in schools, the intergenerational transfer of occupational and economic success, and the grouping of students: Lessons from suburbia" (January 1, 1997). Dissertations available from ProQuest. Paper AAI9814887.
http://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI9814887

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