Since the early 1970s the importance of mothers’ socioeconomic characteristics on their children’s educational and occupational attainment has been acknowledged. However, it is not clear if fathers’ characteristics have a stronger influence because men usually have stronger attachments to the labour market, or alternatively mothers’ characteristics are more important because of their greater role in children’s socialization. This study addresses this question by comparing the influence of father’s and mother’s education and occupation on student performance in literacy and numeracy using data from 30 countries. The impact of mother’s education is usually greater or comparable to that of father’s education. In contrast, substantially stronger effects for mother’s occupational status compared to father’s were rare. In most countries the impact of mother’s socioeconomic characteristics (education plus occupation) on student performance is comparable to that for father’s. Of the four indicators of socioeconomic background, father’s occupational status and mother’s educational attainment tend to have stronger effects, although many countries do not conform to this pattern. There are indications that the relative importance of mother’s characteristics have increased over time.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/gary_marks/54/