Childhood Poverty Across Generations: A Trajectory Approach

Friday, July 18, 2014: 4:15 PM
Room: Booth 42
Oral Presentation
Dohoon LEE , Sociology, New York University, New York, NY
Peter RICH , Sociology, New Yor University, New York, NY
Research on social stratification and mobility has established a strong intergenerational link in economic disadvantage, documenting the ways in which socioeconomic status is transmitted from one generation to the next. Childhood economic deprivation plays a critical role in the stratification process, as it has been identified as a key obstacle to upward mobility. Ample evidence from the life course literature suggests that early and persistent childhood poverty has adverse impacts on educational attainment, labor market performance, health, and family formation. Incorporating these two streams of research, this paper provides a multigenerational analysis that turns around the question of socioeconomic mobility: How is childhood poverty experienced by parents passed on to their offspring’s poverty experiences during childhood? Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), we extend previous research in several important ways. First, drawing upon recent research suggesting the role of family influence across multiple generations, this paper examines how grandparents’ socioeconomic standing affects parents’ childhood poverty, which in turn affects children’s childhood poverty. Second, we employ finite mixture modeling to construct trajectories of childhood poverty across generations. Specifically, we investigate how different temporal patterns—timing, duration, stability, and sequencing—of economic deprivation throughout childhood in one generation are associated with those in the next generation. This approach thus allows us to address potential limitations of using cross-sectional measures to estimate intergenerational links in childhood poverty. Finally, our analysis examines the mechanisms by which poverty trajectories during childhood are transmitted from parents to children, using family background characteristics at the time of childbearing as intervening factors. We expect this study to generate new insights into the intergenerational transmission of childhood economic disadvantage.