News Release

Education and intergenerational disadvantages

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

A study examines how education may disrupt inequality persistence across generations. Health and living standards are improving across the Western world. However, not all individuals have benefited equally from such improvements, potentially due to disadvantages persisting within families across generations, among other factors. Signe Hald Andersen and colleagues examined public service use records for 636,385 Danish citizens who were born in Denmark between 1974 and 1984. Individuals' records were compared with records of their parents and children, and the authors examined use of public services related to physical health, mental health, social welfare, criminal offenses, and protective services. Individuals who disproportionately used multiple health and social services often had parents who also disproportionately used multiple health and social services. Such individuals also tended to have children who appeared in records related to protective services, suggesting increased risk of becoming disadvantaged adults. Compared with their siblings who obtained less education, individuals who completed more schooling exhibited reduced risk of disadvantages later in life, even if they had disadvantaged parents. The findings suggest that increasing investment in education, especially for underserved populations, may reduce inequality by interrupting the intergenerational cycle of disadvantage, according to the authors.

Article #21-03896: "Nationwide evidence that education disrupts the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage," by Signe Hald Andersen, Leah S. Richmond-Rakerd, Terrie E. Moffitt, and Avshalom Caspi.

MEDIA CONTACT: Signe Hald Andersen, Rockwool Foundation Research Unit, Copenhagen, DENMARK; email:; Leah Richmond-Rakerd, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, MI; email:


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