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Accuracy of Student Reports About Their Parents' Education
Monday, December 21, 2009
How well do your children know you? From the early years of the LSAY, we have discovered that many children do not know what their parents’ level of education is.
In the fall of 1987, the LSAY participants (then in the 7th and 10th grade) were asked to report the highest level of education completed by their mother and their father, using one of the following categories: less than high school graduation, high school graduation only, vocational or trade school after high school, some college but no degree, 2-yr (Associate) degree, Master’s degree or equivalent, Ph.D., M.D., or other advanced degree, and I Don’t Know.
Over the next three years, the participants’ parents were asked to report the highest level of education that they had completed in a telephone interview. This allows us to compare the students’ reports with those of their parents.
Looking first at the reports of seventh-grade students, 48 percent of the student reports disagreed with the report of the mother (see Figure 1). Twenty percent of the students overestimated the level of their mother's education, while eight percent underestimated the level of their mother's education, and another 20 percent were uncertain about the level of their mother’s education. The result is nearly the same for the seventh graders’ report of their father’s education. It is apparent that seventh-grade students were confused by the level, or meaning, of associate degrees, baccalaureate degrees, and graduate degrees, as reflected in the educational attainment question used in the study.
Figure 1: Accuracy of 7th Graders' Reports of their Parents’ Education.
Turning to the data provided by high school sophomores, the overall accuracy was higher, with 67 percent correctly reporting their mother’s education, and 62 percent their father’s education. However, a third of sophomores were unable to accurately report their parents’ level of educational attainment (see Figure 2). Twice as many students overestimated the level of their mother's educational attainment as underestimated that level. As with seventh-graders, there was some apparent confusion about the associate level of education and about the various levels of graduate education.
Figure 2: Accuracy of 10th Graders' Reports of their Parents’ Education.
Prepared by Jon Miller and Linda Kimmel