Last year, the research team shared a preprint of this paper on the Internet. At that time, it received 2,000+ retweets on Twitter and many popular media reports. After the release of the full version of the paper, it also caused heated discussions among netizens. .
A journalism professor said on the “personal statement”: This is not surprising, her grandfather is a Ph.D., and her parents are masters.
There are also netizens who are not from academic families and suddenly realize after reading the paper: Many phenomena around them are now explained.
So how exactly did the researchers come up with this data?
The phenomenon of intergenerational transmission is obvious
The researchers selected 7,204 tenured teachers from different levels of schools and different majors as research objects, and counted their parents’ highesteducatelevel, childhood SES (socioeconomic status), etc. And compared with the national average academic qualifications, income and university rankings during the same period, the following conclusions were drawn.
First and foremost, tenured professors tend to come from highly educated families. Nearly a quarter (22.2%) of professors said they had at least one parent with a Ph.D., and 3.7% had both parents. When it comes to masters, the statistic is even more pronounced: more than half (51.8%) of professors have at least one parent with a master’s degree or higher.
In stark contrast, U.S. polls show that, on average, less than 1 percent of people in the U.S. have a doctorate and just 7.4 percent have a graduate degree at nearly the same time.
Second, this phenomenon is more prominent in elite schools. The data shows that professors whose parents went to college are more likely to be employed in prestigious schools, while professors without Ph.D. parents are generally more educated if they want to be employed in prestigious schools. What’s more, the researchers point out, this phenomenon has persisted in academia for nearly 50 years. Their analysis of parents of PhDs between 1940 and 1980 found that the percentage of tenured professors whose parents had PhDs remained stable at more than 20% over the past 50 years.
In addition, the researchers also took into account racial minorities and concluded that blacks or Hispanics had worse intergenerational transmission in academic circles. As you can see from the graph below, blacks and Latinos are less likely to earn any type of graduate degree than whites.
The percentage of white tenured parents with a doctorate (23.4%) was higher than that of blacks (17.2%) or Hispanics (16.9%). This also means that parents of the latter two appear to have less influence on their children’s entry into academia.
So, how did all the above phenomena come about?
Academic Encouragement + Financial Support
For the reasons for the formation of such disparate data, the researchers also gave the answer in the article. First, the researchers analyzed the academic support parents gave their children: Parents with PhDs gave their children the most support and encouragement in academic career development. For example, it can shape children’s identification with academic ideals earlier, children may be more valued or experienced in academic activities, etc. The exact data proves that as high as 68.3% of parents with doctoral degrees give their children a lot of support for academic career development, while only 35.1% of parents in high school and below.
In addition, compared with the general public, having one or both parents with a Ph.D. basically means that the child will have better living conditions from an early age. Statistics show that the original family income of tenured professors (73,000) is significantly higher than the average (59,000).
In addition to the overall income situation, there are some data that prove the wealth of the families of origin of these tenured professors. For example, 75.7% of the interviewed professors said that they had a house before the age of 18, which was higher than the average homeownership rate of 62% in the United States at that time; the researchers judged based on the average birth year of the professors and the population distribution map of the United States at that time. , they are more likely to grow up in a bustling big city. Taken together, Ph.D. parents provide both academic encouragement and financial support, which explains why their children are more likely to become university professors.
The authors of the paper are from the University of Colorado, the University of California, and the Santa Fe Institute. The first author, Allison C. Morgan , received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Colorado, focusing on computational social sciences.
The authors note in the paper that it took them about 6 years from the initial survey design to the publication of this paper, and that they will conduct further research in the future.