CUPE Local 1356 Blog

Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 1356. We have three Collective Agreements as Local 1356, 1356-01, and 1356-02. The membership is comprised of the full-time and part-time workers of York University the Local website is at This Blog will include Local information and information garnered from sources other Universities, Colleges, Post Secondary/Tertiary Education and news sources supplying information.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Impact of family background on access to postsecondary education

Study: Impact of family background on access to postsecondary education

Participation in postsecondary education, particularly university, is strongly influenced by the education level of parents and other family background characteristics, according to a new study.

The study, which used data from Statistics Canada's 1991 and 1995 School Leavers Surveys, found that family background, particularly levels of parent education, has both a direct and indirect influence on whether young people go on to college or university.

Parental education is strongly related to postsecondary participation, even after controlling for other factors, such as high school academic performance and behaviour.

More specifically, each additional year of parental education increases the likelihood of university attendance by as much as five percentage points. Roughly 40% of this effect is indirect, the rest direct.

Overall, a large proportion of the impact of family background occurs through indirect channels such as student's grades in primary school and high school, student's attitudes towards school and parents' opinion of the importance of high school. This suggests that the period of life before postsecondary financing and relating issues become important is crucial for postsecondary access.

Even before high school graduation, parental education affects postsecondary opportunities because there is a strong relationship between parent education and high school outcomes, such as grades.

However, students whose parents have higher levels of education are more likely to go on than others, even after these outcomes are taken into account, controlling, for example, for the grades of students.

In terms of family type, children from two-parent families are about 25% more likely to go on to higher schooling than those from single-mother families.

Living in a rural area during high school decreases the likelihood of postsecondary attendance, but the effects are statistically significant only in terms of university participation, not in terms of post-secondary access.

Academic performance in high school, as measured by an individual's grade average, has a strong positive influence in participating in both university education and other forms of postsecondary education.

The study also found that failing a grade even in elementary school is an additional predictor of participation in postsecondary education.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3156 .

The research paper Who Goes? The Direct and Indirect Effects of Family Background on Access to Postsecondary Education (11F0019MIE2005237 , free) is now available online. From our home page select Studies, then under Browse periodical and series choose Free and for sale. Under Series select Analytical Studies Branch.

For further information or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Ross Finnie (613-951-3962), Business and Labour Market Analysis Division.

Thanks to the PSE [Post Secondary Education] mailing list and Teresa Healy.

Teresa Healy
Senior Research Officer
Canadian Union of Public Employees

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