Socio-Economic Family Background and Adult Children’s Health in Germany: The Role of Intergenerational Transmission of Education

Oliver Arránz Becker , Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg
Katharina Loter, Tilburg University

The present study examines consequences of parental education for adult children’s physical and mental health using panel data from the German Socio-economic panel study (GSOEP), waves 2002-2017. Based on random-effects growth curve models (N=5,564 individuals born between 1930 and 1990), we estimate gender-, age- and cohort-specific trajectories of physical and mental health components of the SF-12 questionnaire that were measured biennially. Findings suggest more persistent effects of parental education on physical than mental health; particularly daughters and sons of the least educated group of parents (with lower secondary or less education) exhibit markedly lower physical health scores than those of higher educated parents. Educational gradients regarding physical health tend to widen over the life course; among daughters, the health returns of parental education appear to increase in the youngest cohorts. Patterns for mental health are similar but weaker. As soon as children’s educational attainment is held constant, effects of parental education on children’s health mostly vanish. This suggests that in the strongly stratified German context with its rather low social mobility, intergenerational transmission of educational attainment, which, according to our analyses, has even grown slightly stronger among younger cohorts, contributes to cementing long-term health inequalities across the life course related to childhood family background.

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 Presented in Session 114. Life Course influences on Children's Outcomes