Money could determine parental investment biases in child education

Oct 01, 2010
Money could determine parental investment biases in child education
Children on their way home from school in Ethiopia. Image by Dr Mhairi Gibson

Wealth does affect parents’ investment in their children’s education, according to new research from the University of Bristol and the London School of Economics, published in Current Anthropology.

Anthropologists Dr. Mhairi Gibson (Bristol) and Dr Rebecca Sear (LSE) looked at two populations on the cusp of fertility decline: a patrilineal Ethiopian and a matrilineal Malawian population.

Their research tested the theory that couples reduce family sizes as demographic and economic changes cause heavier investment in fewer (for example, through education and material goods).  Such shifts to greater investment in fewer children may first be seen in wealthy families, since this strategy is risky in poor families where the likelihood of child death or ill-health may still be high.

The researchers found that, in both populations, greater wealth is associated with increased biases in child education. In richer families, early born children receive more education than later born children, though early born sons are favored in the patrilineal population and early born daughters in the matrilineal population. 

Poorer families invest less in their children’s education, but also discriminate less between their .  In terms of , at least, richer parents do seem to be adopting a strategy of investing more in fewer children.

Explore further: Sense of smell fades with age

More information: Paper
Does Wealth Increase Parental Investment Biases in Child Education? Evidence from Two African Populations on the Cusp of the Fertility Transition by Mhairi A. Gibson and Rebecca Sear in Current Anthropology.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mothers trade child quantity for quality

Jan 23, 2008

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have shown that mothers are choosing to have fewer children in order to give their children the best start in life, but by doing so are going against millenia of human evolution. ...

Children's sex affects parents' marital status

May 23, 2006

Parents with a boy and a girl are more likely to stay married, or get married if they were unmarried when their children were born, than those with two boys or two girls according to new research from ANU economist Dr Andrew ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 0