In this paper we use unique retrospective family background data from Wave 13 of the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) on different birth cohorts to analyze the relevance of family background, in particular parental education, and gender on differential educational achievement. We find parents' education attainments to be strong predictors of the education of their offspring. In particular, maternal education is the main determinant on the decision of whether stay-on beyond compulsory education. Our results are robust to the inclusion of a large set of control variables, including household income. A second research question addressed in the paper investigates whether the large expansion of the UK educational system during the last decades has concurred with enhanced relative educational opportunities for children of parents with low educational background. The analysis reveals that the relevance of parental education over time becomes stronger in terms of achieving higher educational levels, in particular university degree. However, there are significant dissimilarities with respect to gender differences; in particular we observe a positive secular trend in female education attainment associated to maternal education.
educational attainment schooling early school leaving education transmission