Quality & Quantity 36: 17–42, 2002.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Do Mothers Matter? A Comparison of Models of
the Inﬂuence of Mothers’ and Fathers’ Educational
and Occupational Status on Children’s Educational
SYLVIA E. KORUPP
Faculty of Law, Economics, and Social Sciences, Erfurt University, P.O. Box 900221, 99105 Erfurt,
HARRY B. G. GANZEBOOM and TANJA VAN DER LIPPE
Department of Sociology (ICS), Utrecht University, Heidelberglaan 1, 3584 CS Utrecht,
Abstract. The ﬁrst objective of this article is to clarify which model best captures the structure and
trend of the inﬂuence of social origin on children’s education. The second objective is to analyse how
general conclusions on historical trends in educational reproduction change if we add the mother’s
status background to the model. Six contrasting hypotheses are derived from the body of literature
dealing with models on families’ socioeconomic status. All hypotheses are translated into empirical
models and their explained variance is compared. A pooled data set is used that contains data from
the Netherlands, West Germany, and the USA. The Modiﬁed Dominance Model, that distinguishes
the inﬂuence of the highest from the lowest status parent, has the best model ﬁt. Regarding the second
objective we see that adding the mother’s inﬂuence to that of the father’s does not change general
conclusions on trends in educational reproduction. Over time the inﬂuence of both parents decreases
continuously. However, the inﬂuence of the mother’s education and occupational status on children’s
educational attainment is substantive.
Key words: families, historical trends, social inequality, status attainment
One of the assumptions often made in mainstream stratiﬁcation research is that the
father’s socioeconomic background sufﬁciently represents his family’s socioeco-
nomic position. His status is assumed to determine his family’s socioeconomic
resources. Much of this argument is based on the fact that mothers often do not
hold a paid job or, when employed, are married to a higher status husband (e.g.,
Goldthorpe, 1983). However, times have changed. A growing number of mothers
are employed at one point or another, and the number of cases where the wife’s edu-
This article has been presented at the ISA RC28 Conference Social Stratiﬁcation at the
Century’s End: International Perspectives (Madison, Wisconsin, August 1999).