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Research and Innovation

Study Links Parental Support and Career Success of Children

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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.