Parental Social Capital and Educational Attainment
How do resources that reside in social networks of parents affect adolescents’ educational attainment? We draw a controversy in the sociology of education about whether and how parental networks benefit educational attainment. We explore the effect of informal network closure among parents as well as parents’ participation in institutionalized school activities. Previous findings are inconclusive. We argue that these inconsistent findings result from: (1) effect heterogeneity of parental social capital across school contexts, (2) conceptual ambiguity about parental social capital, (3) selection into parental social capital. Using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we combine propensity score matching and multi-level modelling. Results show that benefits of network closure among parents are specific to low-poverty schools. In high-poverty schools, social closure in parent networks can even be detrimental to educational attainment. The social closure generated in informal connections among parents thereby contributes to the encapsulation of disadvantage in areas of concentrated poverty. The paper concludes that social closure primarily functions as a multiplier of social advantages and disadvantages at the community level.
Hannah Brückner is Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Center for Research on Inequalities and the Life Course, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.