Compensating or Reinforcing? Variation in Parental Involvement Responses to Early Child Abilities by Social Origin
Michael Grätz, European University Institute
Evidence suggests that parents allocate their investments unequally among their children, thus inducing within-family inequality. We investigate whether parents reinforce or compensate differences in early ability between their children, and whether parental responses vary by family socioeconomic advantage. Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study - Birth Cohort (ECLS-B) and a twin-fixed effects approach to address unobserved heterogeneity, we find that parental responses to early child abilities do vary with family background. Contrary to prior findings, upper class parents reinforce child’s early ability by providing more cognitive stimulation and support to higher-ability children, while lower class parents do not respond to early ability differences between their children. This result holds across different measures of family background, including education, household income, and SES. However, this behavior does not result in an actual reinforcement among advantaged families because parental support appears to have little effect on children’s later cognitive outcomes.