Social Stratification across Three Generations: New Evidence from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study

Warren, John, and Robert Hauser
Working paper no. 1995-05


Research on intergenerational social and economic mobility is almost always limited to mobility across two generations. While two-generation studies provide important insights into the ways in which social and economic advantages and disadvantages are passed from one generation to the next, much less attention focuses on stratification over three or more generations. In our analyses, we ask whether grandparents’ schooling, occupational statuses, and incomes have any significant influence on grandchildren’s educational and occupational attainments, once parents’ characteristics are taken into consideration. In a regression analysis of several thousand parents who graduated from Wisconsin high schools, we find that grandparents’ characteristics have few significant effects on grandchildren’s educational attainment or occupational status, once parents’ characteristics are held constant. Also, using structural equation models, we find that, even when we consider both sets of grandparents and account for errors in variables, the data are not consistent with the hypothesis that grandparents’ schooling, occupational statuses, or incomes directly affect grandchildren’s educational attainment or occupational status.