Regardless of our parents’ jobs, incomes and education the chances of our attaining a higher social status more than double if our grandparents had professional rather than manual or unskilled jobs.
And the grandparent effect is stronger if they were from a higher social class and the parents slipped down. Then the grandchildren get pushed up again.
Looking at data for children born in 1946, 1958, and 1970, the researchers found that 80% of men born in families with both parents and grandparents in professional jobs maintained those positions.
Of men who had parents in the professional classes but grandparents in unskilled work only 61% retained the higher status.
The effect was weaker for women but their participation in the workforce would have been lower in the immediate post-war period and in the fifties.
Family has always had an influence on social class but these studies show the influence of grandparents who want the best for their grandchildren regardless of the parents’ situation.
Other research has shown the impact of grandparents on specific types of occupations and also the impact of breastfeeding on upward social mobility.