A study of 40,000 Dutch adults born between 1930 and 1990 found that the children of better-educated mothers or fathers enter their own first partnerhips later, particularly if the first union is marriage rather than cohabitation. More educated parents’ children marry on average three years later in their lives than children of less educated parents. If they cohabit, they start on average one year later.

The researchers, Jarl Mooyaart and Aart Liefbroer of the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute, checked to make sure that the effect wasn’t due just to the child’s own level of education. They found that for each level of the children’s education, the parents’ education still made a difference.

Children of more educated mothers or fathers are also more likely to cohabit rather than marry, compared with children of less educated parents. Among people born since 1960, two-thirds of women and three-quarters of men with less-educated parents cohabit in their first union; over 80 percent of both women and men with better-educated parents cohabit in their first union.

Mothers’ education shows a slightly greater correlation than the education of the father with all the effects except one: the timing of a first marriage.

Mooyart and Liefbroer’s study adds to the growing evidence that parents’ education has a long-term influence on the lives of the next generation.

Header photo: Hong Chang Bum. Creative Commons.