Black-White Differences in Occupational Prestige: Their Impact on Child Development

Conley D. & Yeung, J.
American Behavioral Scientist, May 2005; 48: 1229 - 1249.

This article examines whether differences in parental occupational prestige mediate or moderate race differences in four indicators of child development—reading scores, math scores, Behavior Problems Index, and health status—using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics Child Development Supplement. The authors find that although for behavioral problems there is no impact of parental occupational prestige, for reading, math, and health there are significant academic returns to parental occupational prestige, but only for White families. The authors hypothesize that this racially distinct dynamic may be a result of ongoing discrimination in the labor market, thereby reducing the association between ability (job and parenting) and prestige; or it may be a result of the difficulty of Blacks to translate occupational prestige gains into other benefits as a result of discrimination outside the labor market; or finally, it may be the result of a generational lag between occupational status and parenting practices.