Parental Resources, Educational Progression, and Family Formation

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Reeder, Lori
Rendall, Michael S
In this dissertation, I use longitudinal data (1997-2011) to explore two types of financial constraints during the transition to adulthood. First, I explore the relationship between parental resources (income and net household worth) and educational transitions among U.S. men and women. I revisit the Mare model of educational transitions which asserts that parental resources decline in importance with each educational transition. I find that, for the current cohort of young adults, parental net worth, in particular, is positively associated with high school graduation, four-year college attendance, and four-year college completion. Yet, the magnitude of the effect of parental net worth does decline with each educational transition. Furthermore, after controlling for parental income and net household worth, non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic students are more likely to graduate from high school and to enroll in college, yet remain less likely to graduate from college. For enrollment into professional or graduate school, the effect of parental resources is statistically nonsignificant. Next, I examine the relationship between parental resources and timing of women's first birth. I find that parental resources impact first birth timing, wherein compared to women from low-resource families, women from middle-resource families have a lower likelihood of first birth through the mid-20s and women from high-resources families were found to have substantially lower likelihood of having a first birth by age 30 or 31. I find that greater and earlier incidence of Hispanic women's first birth is entirely explained by differences in parental resources and other sociodemographic characteristics. Furthermore, differences in parental resources explain the higher likelihood of first births in teen years, and most of the higher likelihood of first births in the 20s, among Black women. Finally, I consider whether student loan debt delays family formation for men and women attending four-year college. I find that student loan debt is associated with later transitions to marriage and first birth, for both women and men, but that only for women does a statistically significant association remain after controlling for income, family background, and other socio-demographic characteristics, and even then only at low levels of debt.