Family fortunes: the persisting grandparents' effects in contemporary British society

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

Social Science Research


Min Zhang and Yaojun Li

Publication date


This study examines grandparents' effects on grandchildren in contemporary British society. We begin with grandchildren's occupational aspiration in their adolescent years and move on to assess their educational and class attainment in adulthood. Using the British Household Panel Survey and the UK Household Longitudinal Study, we find persisting grandparental effects in all three domains even after controlling for parents' socio-economic-cultural resources and other demographic and contextual factors. In addition, we find that self-employed grandparents have a strong impact on grandsons' (albeit not on granddaughters') likelihood of engagement in self-employment, a pattern that holds true even when parents are not self-employed. Our study shows that grandparents' class still affects grandchildren's life chances in contemporary UK society just as earlier research showed for mid-20th century Britain and that the effects are manifested at different stages of the life course, from occupational aspiration as teenagers to educational attainment as young adults to occupational destination as adults.

Volume and page numbers

77, 179-192





Young People, Education, Labour Market, Life Course Analysis, Social Stratification and Sociology Of Households