The Impact of Parental Death on Sons' Status Attainment and Chances for Upward Mobility in the Netherlands, 1850-1952

Matthias Rosenbaum-Feldbrügge, Radboud University Nijmegen

This article examines the relationship between parental death before age 16 and occupational outcomes in adulthood over a period of more than 100 years. Given the important economic and social developments that took place in the period under consideration, the question is emphasized whether the effect of parental death changes over time. Using a sample of more than 6300 male individuals, the findings support the expectation that parental death during childhood is negatively associated with both status attainment and the chances for upward mobility in later life. The size of the detrimental effect, however, largely depends on mediating factors such as the place of residence, the age of the child, the sex of the deceased parent, the presence of stepparents and the father’s socioeconomic status. Results further suggest that the negative association between parental death and status attainment vanishes for individuals born in the beginning of the twentieth century. This finding can be explained by the labor market transformations and educational expansion that occurred at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century. Therefore the paper emphasizes the complex interaction between individual life courses and the surrounding social, economic, and institutional developments.

Presented in Session 97: Childhood Experiences, Parental Investment and Intergenerational Mobility