The Intergenerational Transmission of Education: A Case Study from Iceland

Emil Dagsson, Þorlákur Karlsson, Gylfi Zoega


We estimate the relation between parents’ education and the education of their children, using survey data from Iceland. We find a positive correlation between the education of parents and their children, as well as a positive correlation between parents’ emphasis on the importance of education and their children’s education. Parents with strong educational emphasis do not necessarily need to have high educational attainment in our sample. The mother’s education appears to matter somewhat more than that of the father. In a multiple regression analysis, we find a positive and statistically significant effect of both the mother and the father’s education on the educational attainment of children as well as an effect of the mother and the father’s emphasis of the importance of education, while controlling for gender, age and residence. The results show that parents’ emphasis on education has almost the same effect on children as the parents’ education level. We attempt to make a comparison between the correlation in Iceland and in other countries, in particular the four Nordic countries that have a weaker transmission between generations than most other nations. We find that it is lower in Iceland than the Nordic average. Finally, we find that the influence of parents has not changed much over time by omitting the youngest cohort between the ages of 24 and 35.


Education; generations; transmission.


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