Cultural transmission, educational attainment and social mobility



This paper examines the relationship between cultural socialisation, educational attainment and intergenerational social mobility. Picking up on debates about the transmission of cultural capital and social advantage, we use data from the Taking Part Survey of England to analyse how far socialisation into cultural activities and encouragement play a role in educational attainment, intergenerational mobility and in the reproduction of class. This survey has unprecedented data on whether respondents had been taken to museums/art galleries, theatre/dance/classical music performances, sites of historic interest, and libraries when they were growing up. This is buttressed by information on how much parents or other adults encouraged the respondents to read books or to be creatively active in different domains of the arts, literature and music. Using these rich measures of childhood socialisation, we can show that part of the effect of parental class on educational attainment is due to the transmission of this kind of cultural capital. Moreover, this transmission also has a direct effect on the level of educational attainment. In a similar fashion, respondents who have experienced a higher intensity of cultural socialisation are more likely to be upwardly mobile, and likewise, cultural transmission has a positive effect on the prevention of downward mobility among service class children. These results are discussed in the light of current issues in British mobility research and its treatment of cultural aspects of class and mobility.