Having parents who attended university has always been a strong predictor of a child’s likelihood to secure a degree, but a recent study suggests that gap is narrowing.
The Statistics Canada study found that people whose parents didn’t graduate from university are nearly twice as likely to get a degree today than they were more than two decades ago.
The study found that in 2009, 23 per cent of people whose parents didn’t get a university education held a degree, up from 12 per cent in 1986.
The 2009 General Social Survey attributes the shrinking disparity in university completion by family background to women.
In 1986, only 10 per cent of women whose parents were not university graduates held a degree. By 2009, that proportion nearly tripled to 28 per cent.
But Martin Turcotte, a senior analyst at Statistics Canada who authored the study, said there was a significant increase in the number of women with highly educated parents who got degrees, too.
“Really the fact that more women from all types of families get degrees contributed a lot to the decreasing gap,” said Turcotte.
Despite the increase there’s still a sizable difference between the two groups, with a person whose parents hold a degree much more likely to complete university.
“The gap is still important,” said Turcotte. “People with parents who have a university education are twice as likely to get the degree themselves, compared to other people.”
The study also found that parents’ educational achievements have less of an impact on the children of immigrants. Those children are even more likely than the kids of Canadian-born parents to complete university.
“There’s some literature that shows that immigrants have higher expectations for their children’s education than Canadian-born parents,” said Turcotte.