Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

139P Family Resources and Children's Educational Achievement: The Moderating Role of Family Policy Environment

Saturday, January 14, 2012
Independence F - I (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Yung Soo Lee, MA, PhD Candidate, Washington University in Saint Louis, St. Louis, MO
Background and Purpose: Numerous studies have examined factors associated with children's educational achievement, and much of those have focused on the role of family resources and background. While these studies have found significant links between various family resources and children's education, they lack of other important consideration such as public policy contexts. The aims of this study are (1) to examine the factors associated with children's educational achievement; account is still taken of family resources, but emphasis is on a cross-national variation in family policy environment, and (2) to explore how family policy environment moderates relationships between family resources and children's educational achievement.

Methods: This study utilized the data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study, a large-scale surveys containing data on students' academic achievement as well as other contextual information on students, families and schools for the participating countries. To measure family policy environment, countries in the study sample were empirically grouped into three different family policy regimes based on the Hierarchical Cluster Analysis; then, dummy variables representing each family policy regime were merged into the PISA dataset. The missing data were imputed using the Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) multiple imputation. The direct impacts of family resources and family policy environment were estimated using random effect multilevel modeling. To investigate the moderating role of family policy environment, a series of cross-level interactions between family resources and family policy environment were added to the model. Other alternative statistical procedures (e.g., the Hausman-Taylor estimator) were additionally used to examine whether the findings were robust to a possible endogeneity problem in the random effect modeling.

Findings: All three types of family resources, family financial, human and social capital were found to be linked to children's educational achievement. Family income and wealth were positively associated with child education; so were parental education. Measures of structural deficiencies of family social capital such as single parent family, number of siblings, and maternal employment were negatively associated with children's educational achievement. Next, family policy environment was found to be a significant correlate. Children in the countries with strong family policy showed better achievement than those in the countries with weak family policy. With reard to the moderating role of family policy environment, strong, positive impacts of family income and wealth were weaker in countries with strong family policy. The negative impact of mothers' full-time employment disappeared and changed to be positive in countries with medium-to-strong family policy.

Conclusions: The findings of this study suggest that family policy (e.g., income support, parental leave, ECEC) be effective in enhancing children's educational achievement. Family policy environment directly influences children's educational achievement. The negative impact of low family income/wealth or maternal employment on child education can be moderated by generous family policy environment. It is well-known that the US social policies supporting families and children lag other industrialized countries, and it might be one of the underlying reasons for poor educational performance of children. The evidence from this study calls for more support for families with children.