Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Hyunjoon Park


While it is widely accepted that parental education is associated with children’s educational outcomes, a resurgence of research on the persistence of inequalities across multiple generations and contexts underscores the need for a fuller understanding of family legacies. Growing evidence suggests that grandparental education and parental social origins are important sources of inequalities that have been overlooked. Though the intergenerational literature has shown weaker associations between family background and student outcomes in racial minority and immigrant families, little research has examined whether these findings hold when taking into account a more comprehensive view of family background. This research takes advantage of data on grandparental, parental, and student education from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002), a nationally representative study of 10th-graders who were followed for a decade. The study first examines whether maternal grandparental education continues to be associated with student academic achievement and attainment, net of parental resources, and whether having more educated grandparents similarly serves as a resource in native, immigrant, and minority families. Next, the study focuses on the relationship between maternal social mobility trajectories (which combine maternal social attainment and social origins) and different forms of parental involvement at home and in schools, comparing patterns between native and immigrant families. Lastly, the study examines variations in teacher perceptions of parental involvement and student ability by maternal social mobility trajectories, again focusing on comparisons of patterns between native and immigrant families. Overall, the study finds a consistent association between broader conceptions of family background that include grandparental education and maternal social origins and student outcomes in native families, but much less consistent evidence of such associations in immigrant and racial minority families. The study posits that immigrant and racial minority families do not benefit from the same family resources compared to native families, given the challenges associated with navigating a new educational system as well as systemic institutional barriers that prevent the full incorporation of families from diverse backgrounds. Implications for expanding theories of social and cultural reproduction as well as for educational policies focused on family-school relationships are discussed.

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