Skip to main content
Research and Innovation

Study Links Parental Support and Career Success of Children

A stack of green money
Photo credit: Andy Thrasher. Used under a Creative Commons license. Click for more information.

For Immediate Release

A recent study finds that young people who get financial support from their parents have greater professional success, highlighting one way social inequality is transmitted from one generation to the next.

“The question underlying this work was whether parental support gives adult children an advantage or hinders their development,” says Anna Manzoni, an associate professor of sociology at North Carolina State University and author of a paper on the work.

To address this question, Manzoni looked at data on 7,542 U.S. adults between the ages of 18 and 28. The data was from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, which collected data from study participants over time, allowing researchers to track an individual’s occupational status. This status reflects the average education and income of people in a given occupation.

“By using models that account for other individual and family-level variables, I found that parental assistance could help or hinder young people, depending on the nature of the assistance,” Manzoni says.

Specifically, Manzoni found that the more direct financial support young people received from their parents, the higher their occupational status. This was particularly true for college graduates who got direct support from their parents.

On the other hand, young people who received indirect financial support by living at home had lower occupational status. Again, this was particularly true for college graduates.

In other words, college grads who got money from their parents did especially well professionally, while college grads who lived at home did especially poorly.

“This highlights one way that social inequality is carried forward across generations,” Manzoni says. “Most families want to support their kids, but not all families are able to give money to their children as they enter adulthood. Children whose families can afford to provide direct support do very well. Other families offer the only support they can afford, by offering their kids a place to live. But this appears to adversely affect career outcomes.

“It’s a Catch-22 for families.”

The paper, “Parental Support and Youth Occupational Attainment: Help or Hindrance?” is published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.


Note to Editors: The study abstract follows.

“Parental Support and Youth Occupational Attainment: Help or Hindrance?”

Authors: Anna Manzoni, North Carolina State University

Published: May 2, Journal of Youth and Adolescence

DOI: 10.1007/s10964-018-0856-z

Abstract: While several concerns surround the transition to adulthood and youth increasingly rely on parental support, our knowledge about the implications of parental support for youth development and transition to adulthood is limited. This study fills this gap by conceptualizing development within a life course perspective that links social inequality and early life course transitions. It draws on a subsample of youth observed between age 18 and 28 from the Transition to Adulthood supplement of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics 2005-2015 (N=7,542; 53% female, 51.3% white). Mixed effects models reveal that the more direct financial transfers youth receive, the higher their occupational status. Yet, indirect financial support parents offer through co-residence shows the opposite pattern. Among youth receiving monetary transfers, college graduates have particularly high occupational status; however, among youth living with their parents, college graduates have the lowest occupational status. Whereas different types of parental support may equally act as safety nets, their divergent implications for youth’s occupational attainment raise concerns about the reproduction and possible intensification of inequality during this developmental stage.

Leave a Response

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.

  1. There is a high correlation between Less successful kids and living at parent’s basement. But what is the cause and what is the effect? It may well be that less successful kids can’t afford to live alone so they live with their parent, not the other way around – live with your parents lead to less successful career.

  2. This is a prime example of a single-variable research, based on the Standard Social Science Paradigm. I.e.: Environment is the determining factor.
    A simple expansion of the study would be: To give IQ tests to all members of the Sample, both parents and children– both those parents who gave financial support and those who didn’t, both children who succeeded more and those who succeeded less.
    The hypothesis here would be: IQ is transmitted across the generations.
    The hidden correlation that the study represses: Parents who have a higher IQ, have children with higher IQ. Such parents make more money, and therefore have higher ability to support their children financially. These children both have higher IQ and more financial support,and therefore succeed more.
    The proper conclusion would be: More intelligent parents make more money and support their children more, and these children are more successful.
    But whether this success depends on the extra support, or the higher (inherited) IQ, is not yet possible to conclude. Another study is needed to seek this answer.
    In other words, the hidden variables are:
    correlation between IQ and success– both of parents and of children
    Heritability of IQ– and success factors

  3. This is useless information. They only surveyed 18-28 year olds. No measure of mid to later life effects

  4. Actually this study was done in the early 1990’s by the authors of the book “The Millionaire Next Door”. They finds dispute the article, and pretty just the opposite findings. Their reporting used actual millionaires and not any “Panel Study of Income Dynamics” wacko polling stuff.

    1. I think you’re the one who’s promoting wacko stuff. This study uses standard epidemiological methods, which that old book didn’t. It also helps to look at relevant groups — whether the likes of Trump help their children by letting them have infinite access to money is not relevant. Whether someone making 250k/year is able to support their children better than someone on 80k/year is far more relevant than some “millionaires”.