All in the family? Family Composition, Resources, and Sibling Similarity in Socioeconomic Status

Conley, D. and R. Glauber.
Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 26(4): 297-306

Numerous studies have analyzed the effects of family structure, composition, and resources on socioeconomic status attainment. Fewer studies have explored how these family-based factors affect the variation—or the correlation—between siblings in socioeconomic status. The current study draws on data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and provides a descriptive account of the correlations between siblings along a number of family composition and resource dimensions. We report two main findings. First, correlations do not vary by siblings’ sex mix. That is, brothers’ correlations in education, earnings, and family income are similar to sisters’ correlations. Second, siblings from relatively disadvantaged families—those with more siblings and lower educated, younger, and unmarried mothers—have lower correlations in socioeconomic status than siblings from more advantaged families. In general, family background has a weaker effect on adults who begin life from disadvantaged positions. These findings suggest that social reproduction and mobility processes are complex and shaped by family-level dynamics and resources.