Survey Variable: Parental Education Level

Many more people indicate their mother’s education than their mother’s occupation, although still only seven in ten (70.0%). Further, in contrast with their answers regarding parental occupation, fewer people know about their father’s than their mother’s highest education level, and slightly less than seven in ten (68.3%) give an answer. Overall, this means that three quarters of people (75.5%) indicate at least one of their parent’s education levels. It is not surprising that fewer people know about the education that their parents obtained than about their jobs, given that most children and adolescents have some awareness of what it is that their parents do to make a living but do not necessarily discuss the educational experiences that their parents had.

Figure 1 (above, using weighted data) shows the parental education of those who gave answers, three in ten of whom (30.0%) have mothers who obtained O Levels (panel A).[1] A further one in six (16.9%) have mothers who never finished school, and one in seven (14.6%) have mothers with other qualifications (which includes things such as non-degree teaching and nursing qualifications). The remaining two fifths (38.4%) are split between people with mothers who have A Levels (10.3%), undergraduate degrees (10.0%), GCEs (7.0%), GCSEs (5.7%), and postgraduate degrees (5.4%). In contrast, only a quarter (23.9%) of people’s fathers obtained O Levels (panel B), though this is still a plurality. A fifth (19.6%) have fathers who never finished school (panel B) and more than one in six (17.4%) have fathers with other educational qualifications, both of which are higher than the equivalent figures for mothers. The other figures are similar to those for mothers, give or take a couple of percentage points: the remaining two fifths of people (39.0%) are split between those with father who finished A levels (9.8%), undergraduate degrees (9.5%), GCSEs (7.4%), postgraduate degrees (7.0%), and GCEs (5.3%).

Turning to the highest education level attained by either parent (panel C), a quarter of people (24.5%) have a parent who obtained O Levels and a fifth (20.1%) have a parent with some other type of qualification. One in eight (12.2%) have a parent who finished A Levels whilst one in nine (11.1%) have a parent with an undergraduate degree and almost one in ten (9.4%) have a parent with a postgraduate degree. The remaining fifth (22.7%) have a parent who never finished school (11.5%), obtained GCSEs (5.9%), or obtained GCEs (5.3%). Overall, a plurality of people has parents with low levels of education, and more than a third (36.0%) have no parent with a qualification above O Levels. By contrast, a fifth of people (20.5%) have a parent with an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, and this leaves approaching a quarter (23.4%) who have parent with a middling level of education (GCEs, GCSEs, and A Levels) as well as a fifth (20.1%) in the nebulous ‘Other’ category. Given the relatively low percentage of people who answered these questions, however, it may not be expedient to include them in subsequent analyses.

Variable namesback_moed_mv, back_faed_mv
Number of cases960-984
Number of categories8
Categories to code as missingNone
Cases to code as missingNone
Recoded variable namesback_paed_mv
Number of cases1,061
Number of categories8
New and old categoriesIf respondents provided an education
level for only one of their parents then
it was taken as the highest education
level. Otherwise, the higher of the two
parental education levels was used, with
the categories remaining the same across
both old and new variables. Respondents
who did not indicate an education level
for either parent were coded as missing
on the new variable.
Details of the original and recoded parental education level variables.

[1] See also Table A1.

Published by joegreenwoodhau

Joe Greenwood-Hau is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Government & Public Policy at the University of Strathclyde, where he works on the Capital, Privilege and Political Participation in Britain and Beyond project.

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