Copyright Sociological Research Online, 2002


Muriel Egerton (2002) 'Family Transmission of Social Capital: Differences by Social Class, Education and Public Sector Employment'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 7, no. 3, <>

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Received: 9/10/2002      Accepted: 30/9/2002      Published: 22/10/2002


This paper investigates the role of families in the transmission of tendencies to engage in social and civic activities. The relationship between parents' social class, sector of employment, education and social engagement with their children's civic and social engagement is investigated. It was provisionally hypothesized that graduate parents, particularly those working in the health, education or welfare services, would be more likely to be involved in civic activities, and that they would transmit this pattern to their children. Other forms of social engagement were also examined. Data was drawn from the British Household Panel Study. The survey yielded a sample of approximately 1500 young people and approximately 1200 families. It was found that middle-class parents (particularly professionals) were more likely to be involved in civic activities and that this was also true of their children. A similar effect was found for involvement in religious activities, although the rates of religious activity were low. Little difference by social class was found for Sports and Social activity, although there was a trend towards more involvement for children of managers. The children of managers were involved in a wider range of social organisations. Models exploring the effects of parental class, education and public sector employment were fitted. These seemed to suggest that parental education, particularly mother's education, has an especially strong association with civic activity among children. However, the association was only there for graduate (or sub-degree) mothers who work in the public sector. It seems likely that a particular configuration of professional graduate employment in the state sector has developed in the twentieth century which is associated with civic activity. The results are discussed in the light of the recent university expansion and shift of graduate employment from the public to the private sector.

Keywords: Citizenship, Education, Social Class, Public Services, Family


Economic and political change in the last two decades has led to renewed interest in the civic infrastructure of democratic nations. Neo-liberal economic policies in most advanced industrial countries have been accompanied by rising income inequality, unemployment, visible immiseration and a decay in social cohesion (Lockwood, 1999). Politically, supra-national organisations are both more visible and more powerful, and supra-national social and political networks are more widespread (Walby, 2001). However, the post-war assumption that healthy democracy depends on a plethora of civic and social associations (Almond and Verba, 1963; Putnam, 1993; Hall, 1999; Putnam, 2000) has remained largely unchallenged.

Investigations of civic participation have tended to arise from either a system perspective, focussed on social indicators within particular polities, or a positional perspective, where the instrumental value of civic engagement is emphasized. As instances of the latter case, Bourdieu (1997) suggests that elite groups are able to exploit the social capital of a nation-state, while Nie et al suggest that 'network centrality' is crucial to power and influence within regions or states. Conversely, Lockwood (1999) and Hall (1999) review a wide range of social indicators and conclude that social cohesion has not fallen generally in the UK. However, Hall notes that the decline of working class trade unionism has diminished an institutional resource for working-class co- operation, association and civic engagement and recent research has focussed on the relationship between social class and civic engagement. Savage and Li (2002) suggest that it is important to integrate research on civic engagement with investigations of class formation. In particular they find that civic engagement on the part of manual workers has declined. They suggest that the middle class is becoming more homogeneous while the working class is becoming more fragmented, with deleterious consequences for social cohesion. Lockwood (1996) integrates class and citizenship perspectives in a discussion of social citizenship and its relationship to social integration. Lockwood suggests that social citizenship has ameliorated social inequality consequent on capitalism, but that, in themselves, the rights conferred by citizenship become the subject of struggle by different interest groups. Lockwood notes the importance of civic activism, and the role of highly educated, public sector workers in defending or extending social citizenship rights. These class and citizenship perspectives begin to map out the social terrain in which civic engagement is formed and it is in this context that this paper is set.

The paper investigates the role of families in the transmission of tendencies to engage in social and civic activities. The relationship between parents' social class, education and social engagement with their children's civic and social engagement is reported. This investigation follows on from one which I reported at the BSA Conference, 2001 (Egerton, forthcoming). It is well-known that middle-class men and women are more likely to be involved in civic (i.e. political, community and voluntary) organisations (Goldthorpe, 1987; Johnston and Jowell, 2000). Similarly, it is well-known that the more educated are more likely to engage in civic activities (Parry et al, 1992). It has been unclear to what extent the greater civic activism of the middle class is attributable to characteristics acquired in education (particularly higher education), such as confidence, cognitive skill, prestige, or to the various resources commanded by occupationally successful people. In an attempt to disentangle the effects of higher education from those of occupational success, I investigated involvement in formal civic and social organisations for young people before entering higher education and after the higher education episode. Their involvement was compared with that of young people who entered the labour market after finishing school. Only one weak association was found with the experience of higher education, though this was with a cluster of civic organisations. There were strong associations with parents' social class on children's engagement in their late teens. The children of professional fathers, who were the children most likely to enter higher education, were more likely to be involved in civic organisations before entering higher education. Since this was not the case for the children of managers, an economic resources theory seems to be contradicted. There are several possible explanations. Firstly, this may be an effect of educational transmission, i.e. professionals tend to be graduates and they have transmitted their involvement in civic activity to their children. Secondly, a large proportion of graduates of the parental generation worked in the public sector, particularly in the education and health sectors. Values or behaviours inculcated during professional training and experience may have been transmitted to their children.

Education and Civic Engagement

Taking civic engagement simply as a form of co- operative association designed for social improvement, it is unclear why it should be associated with higher education. Arguably, some of the characteristics and skills required for civic activity; teamwork, speaking or organising skills, might be more readily acquired in the labour market. However, Crossley (2001) has shown that universities give students opportunities to develop political and organising skills through activism in student organisations, particularly new social movements. These activities are often organised at a national and sometimes an international level, so university experience can introduce students to national or international activist networks, as it introduces them to national or international labour markets (see also Emler and Fraser, 1999; Emler, 2000). Perhaps the greater representation of graduates in civic activity simply reflects their access to more prestigious and effective organisations. However, this begs the question of why it is civic rather than, for instance, cultural or sporting networks which are more highly developed in universities.

Another issue which must be considered is the relationship between the universities and the state. The universities were deeply implicated in the nineteenth century modernisation of the British state (Green, 1990; Halsey, 1992). The levers of public administration were taken over by the middle class through the struggle for meritocratic recruitment procedures. The universities supplied the necessary credentialization and have continued to supply graduates to staff a vastly expanded public administration. Davidoff and Hall (1987, Ch. 10) discuss civic activity as a claim to merit and political representation in the late eighteenth century by the developing middle class. It seems likely that, for graduates, particularly those working in the public sector, civic activity may function as a claim to merit. After the establishment of the welfare state, an important role for voluntary agencies has been both to innovate and criticise state provision. Involvement in such activity may legitimate public administration and the activities of public servants. Clearly this is a very complex topic which can only be sketched out here.[1] Before going on to the analyses, a description of the approach taken to organisational affiliation is given.

Organisational Affiliation

The analyses are based on membership of formally constituted social organisations, (described in the data section). This is clearly inadequate as a description of individual social networks, or of the values of these networks in terms of time spent, personal and social benefits accrued. However, there are both practical and theoretical advantages to analysing membership of formally constituted groups. Practically, it is easy to collect large amounts of fairly accurate data on these groups. From a theoretical point of view, formally constituted groups have clearly defined aims, are open to individuals on the basis of impersonal rules, are rule-governed and can be held accountable for their actions. Whatever their latent functions, the manifest functions of the types of groups analysed in this paper are clearly social. Based on empirical exploration of the BHPS sample, the following structure of formal social groups within the UK was found. Political parties were found to have the greatest number of links via membership with other organisations. This is not surprising given that political parties are expected to formulate and represent the interests of all sections of the population. Membership of political parties is quite low[2] and the two largest groups are Trade Unions and Religious organisations in that order. Both of these organisations are bureaucratically and nationally organised (for the most part). However, the membership of both may be relatively localised and passive. These organisations are related to important social cleavages, in the case of Trade Unions to class and employment relations. Although religious cleavages are not important so important in the UK as in some European states, church membership has some effect on political preferences (Heath et al, 1991). It is clear that religious affiliation may mark out a dividing line between relatively traditional groups and non-traditional, urbanised groups, particularly perhaps the urban working class. Although membership/activity in these two organisations are slightly negatively related, they are both quite strongly related to political parties. Trade Union membership is quite strongly related to 1) membership of sporting and social groups and 2) membership of environmental groups. This may represent two strands in TU membership, of masculine, partly working-class social activities and of politically oriented activity. Religious membership is quite strongly related to membership of the Women's Institute and also to membership of voluntary service groups. This signals a dimension of middle-class activism of the traditional, female, charitable type. Various other groups, tenants, parents, community groups are clustered between these two poles, farther from either religious organisations or Trade Unions, but closer to environmental groups or voluntary service groups and also close to political party membership. This is not intended as an authoritative analysis of organisational structure in the UK. Among other factors, it is dependent on the organisations recognised and sampled by the BHPS survey team. What is important is that a plausible and interpretable structure emerges from analysis of one year of the BHPS and was confirmed in analysis of another year. Another important factor to recognise is that some groups are clearly organised at a national level, giving access to national or international networks (most voluntary service agencies, many environmental groups) while others (e.g. Parents or Tenants groups, Social Clubs) are by definition localised. As Savage et al (2002) show, boundaries between the groups are highly permeable and membership of a local group does not mean lack of access to a national network. However, sampling at a particular time-point will still give an indication of how important particular types of organisational membership and identification are to particular social classes.

This paper will investigate in a preliminary way the relationship between children's social organisational involvement, both parents' social class, education and organisational involvement. It was expected that parents who were professionals would be more likely to be involved in civic groups. It was hypothesised that this would be associated with higher qualifications and welfare service employment. It was hypothesised that, just as educational attainment is transmitted to professional's children (Savage et al, 1992) so this tendency to civic activism would be transmitted. Other social class effects are also examined. Since this sample is only observed at one time point (age 16 or 17), all years of the BHPS can be used, thus yielding a larger sample than in the paper which originated the analysis. This means that smaller effects can be examined. In particular, characteristics of families with manager fathers were examined. Managers and professionals share service class employment characteristics and the boundary between them is fuzzy (Goldthorpe, 1987). Many professionals are promoted into managerial jobs, while managers may enter jobs labelled as 'professional' (Mills, 1995). The distinctive characteristics of professionals of the parental generation is that they are more likely to be credentialled than managers and more likely to work in the public sector.


Nine years of the British Household Panel Study (1991-1999) were used. The study is a nationally representative sample survey of households (excluding those north of the Caledonian line). All members of the household aged 16 and over are included in the main survey. The BHPS collects data annually on memberships and activity in a variety of organizations. Data on organizational engagement was not collected in 1996,1998 or 2000. For 1996 and 1998 data from the following years, 1997 and 1999, were used. The initial sample for the BHPS was composed of approximately 5,000 households. However the sample for this analysis is much reduced in that only young people were observed. The sample was composed of those aged 16 and 17 in 1991 and those aged 16, who enter the sample at this age, in the following years. Almost all of these young people (95%) are living with one or both parents at this age. The BHPS sample has been boosted by the addition of a low income sample in 1997 and additional Scottish and Welsh samples in 1999. These booster samples were excluded. The sample yielded was 1572 young people. This was reduced to about 1500 for the analyses presented since questions on organizational affiliation are not asked by proxy, so if the young person was not interviewed at a particular wave, data on organizational affiliation was missing. Households which were not contacted for a particular wave may be contacted in the succeeding wave and households may cycle in and out of the survey. This was exploited in deriving variables for parents. Generally, analyses of attrition in the BHPS suggest that older people and married people are under-represented, while professionals and self-employed people are over- represented (Nathan, 1999). It does not seem likely that these biases will affect the hypotheses tested in this study.


There were four response variables: 1) young people's activity in civic groups; 2) sporting or social clubs; 3) religious groups and 4) an overall index of activity in any constituted group. The explanatory variables were parents' social class, education, sector of employment and their own organizational involvement. The aim of the analyses was to explore which characteristics of professional fathers, and of middle-class parents generally, contribute to the greater involvement of their children in a range of groups, but particularly civic groups. Logistic regression procedures were used for the analyses. The term for father's occupation was fitted first, followed by the other variables. If the effects of father's class were associated with either his or his partner's education, organizational involvement or employment in welfare services, this will be detected by a reduction of the strength of the class parameters. Some of the young people (about 300) were siblings and it is also possible that unmeasured characteristics of families (i.e. the pairings of fathers and mothers, or other characteristics) might affect organizational involvement, therefore the analyses were clustered on families, using STATA logistic regression with robust clustered errors.


Deriving Parental Variables

With the exception of social class, variables were derived by constructing household files which matched the variables for parents to the children's identification code. Social Class for both Mother and Father was recorded on the 1991 data. In the following years, variables for social class were derived from the household files.

Organizational Involvement

Over the nine-year period BHPS collected data on membership and activity in twelve sets of organizations;

A category of 'other' groups was also present. From 1993 onwards three further organizations were added, Scouts/Guides organization, Professional organization, Pensioners group/organization. The two latter were not relevant to the young people considered and those who were members or active in Scouts or Guides were coded into the 'other organizations' category. It was found that, for 16-year-olds, almost all people who were members of organizations were also active in organizations, therefore the analyses focus on activity. A summary variable was constructed which added together all active memberships in any organization. It was found that less than 20% of the sample were active in more than one organization, so the organizational variables were coded into two categories, either 'not active' or 'active in one or more'. The summary variable is treated as an overall index of involvement in formal social organizations.

The structure of organizational membership and activity was explored using the 1991 data for the complete sample (n =10264). For each organization a scale was constructed, scored 0 'not member' 1 'member' and 2 'active'. Groupings of organizational membership and activity were identified through cluster analysis and confirmed through multi- dimensional scaling. Only three of these clusters were important for young people and were:

These clusters covered the most important organizations in which young people are involved with relatively few of them to be found in Trade Unions, Parents or Tenants groups. Organisational activity was sampled from the year when the young person was aged 16. Similar categories were constructed for both parents, although 'other' was not included in the Civic category. Further categories were constructed identifying :

Organisational activity and membership were treated as separate variables, since adults may move in and out of active membership. Additionally, Warde et al (2001) have shown that people may move in and out of organisations, therefore the full seven years was used to sample the variables. For the complex variables, Overall Activity/Membership, Civic, Sports&Social and Parents&Tenants, the year with the largest score was used. However, it was only on the Overall Activity variable that sufficient numbers for analysis were members or active in more than one organisation. Therefore most variables were coded to 'not member(active)' and 'member(active) one plus'. The Overall activity/membership variables were coded to 'none' 'one' 'two' 'three' and 'four plus'. Categories for missing values were constructed. For mothers, this composed about 10 percent of the sample, however, for fathers, missing values composed over 30 percent of the sample, due to fathers who were not present in the household. Absence may be due to working away, separation or death.


Five categories of education qualification were identified; Graduate; Sub-degree; A-level and NVQ3 (vocational qualifications equivalent to A-level); O-Level; Below O-Level and none. These variables were derived from the household files for mothers and fathers. Missing value categories were also constructed.

Social Class of Origin

Father's and mother's occupations at age 14 was recorded in 1991 and a derived variable Socio-Economic Group was the basis of the classification of social origin. After 1991, the household member who was the father was identified and his occupation at age 14 found through earlier panels or work history data. Mother's class was derived in a similar way. However, data from all nine panels were used for mother's class in order to reduce the numbers of 'inactive' mothers, and the mother's class variable represents present or most recent occupation. Social class was coded into five categories: Manual (SEGs 7,8,9,10,11 and 15), Self-employed (SEGs 2.1, 12,14), Clerical (SEG 9) Professional and Ancillary (SEGs 3,4,5.1) Managerial (SEGs 1.1, 1.2, 2.2, 5.2). This categorisation is based on the three-point Goldthorpe Class Schema, but separates managers from professionals in the service class and the self-employed from clerical workers in the intermediate class. The BHPS identifies unemployed/inactive or absent parents and categories for these groups were also constructed.


The sector of each parents' job was recorded in the 4-digit 1980 Standard Industrial Classification. This was collapsed to the standard 10 division Condensed SIC, and then further collapsed to a five-category variable. This variable identified 'Industry' (SIC 0100 to SIC 5040), including primary and secondary industries; 'Distribution&Communications' (SIC 6110 to SIC 7902), including retail, catering, transport and communications; 'Business Services' (SIC 8140 to SIC 8500), including banking, financial, insurance, business services and leasing; 'Other Services' (SIC 9111 to SIC 9230, SIC 9690 to SIC 9900, SIC 0000), including public administration, fire and police, sanitary and cleaning services, recreational, personal and domestic services and 'Welfare Services' (SIC 9310 to 9660), which included Education, Health, Social Welfare and Religious including philanthropic and humanistic societies and bodies.


Figure 1 below shows the percentages of young people active in the various organisation clusters. It can be seen that the Sports and Social Club has the highest activity levels, with about one third being active. Civic groups follow with about 14% of young people having an active involvement in at least one civic group. The percentage of young people involved in religious groups is lowest at about 7%. However, nearly half of the young people are active in some organised social group or club.

Click here for Figure 1

Characteristics of Professional Families

Figures 2 and 3 confirm that professionals tend to be better educated than managers or any other social class group. Thirty-seven percent of professional fathers are graduates and a further 14 percent have sub-degree qualifications. Rather lower percentages of professional mothers are graduates (27%), but higher percentages have sub-degree qualifications. This reflects the higher representation of the semi-professions such as teaching, social work and nursing among mothers, who would have tended to qualify through diploma, rather than degree routes in the 1960s.

Click here for Figures 2-4

The percentage of women managers who are graduates is similar to that of fathers (17%), but fewer are to be found with sub-degree qualifications. Some of the manager fathers may have risen from skilled manual work, acquiring technical qualifications on the way, a route which few women could follow. Figure 4 shows the percentage of each class working in the welfare services. Almost 90 percent of mother professionals are to be found in this sector. Higher percentages of mother managers (25%) are to be found in the welfare services than father professionals (24%). However, even fewer father managers (7%) are to be found there. It should be noted that managers can include head-teachers, senior nursing officers, etc.

When assessing parental influences on children assortative mating has to be taken into account (Ermisch and Francesconi, 2002). Table 1 shows the relationship between Mother's and Father's class. It can be seen that about one quarter of fathers in each of the white-collar occupations, 'clerical' 'professional' and 'managerial' is partnered with a female professional. However, since the clerical father group is less than one third the size of the father professional group, which is 50% smaller again than the manager father group, more women professionals are married to managers than to professionals or junior white-collar workers. The table also shows that nearly one third of fathers are not in the household. For these families, only the mother's education and occupation can be examined.

Relationship of Parental characteristics to Children's social and civic engagement

Given the clustering of education, welfare services employment and professional status, particularly for women, it was decided to examine the univariate odds ratios, that is the odds ratios uncontrolled for any of the other explanatory variables, before fitting any model. These odds ratios are shown in Table 2.

Although the relationship of gender to civic engagement is not explored here, the models which were developed did control for gender. It can be seen that teenage girls are more likely to be active in civic groups, less likely to be active in Sport or Social Clubs and are active in a narrower range of organisations.

Civic activity: It can be seen that the most important variable for civic activity is parental education. Mother's education is more important than father's education, and for mothers all levels of education above O-Level are statistically significant, though tertiary education is most powerful. This may reflect the smaller percentages of lost mothers, but may also reflect the greater clustering of highly educated women in the welfare professions. Professional occupation is also associated with higher rates of children's civic activity, and more strongly for mothers than fathers. The children of manager mothers are also more likely to be involved in civic activities, though less so than those of professional mothers. The odds ratio for mothers employed in the welfare services is also statistically significant, although much weaker than those for education and social class. Many women are employed in these services in manual occupations and the hypothesis only applies to highly educated professionals.

Sports and Social Clubs: There are almost no differences by social class for children's activity in sports and social clubs, although the children of manager mothers are rather more likely to be involved in these clubs. The odds ratio for manager fathers is the highest in the variable but is not statistically significant. However, father's education does make a difference and the odds ratio for father's A-level/NVQ3 qualification is of the same magnitude as that for graduate fathers. A-Level/NVQ3 qualifications may be held by managers or skilled workers and it is possible that this reflects masculine, localised social association for boys.

Religious Groups: Both service class groups are more likely to have children who are active in religious groups, although the effects are much stronger for professionals. Given this, it is unsurprising that the children of graduates are also very likely to be active in religious groups. Sub-degree qualifications also have a positive effect for mothers, but not for fathers. Most women of this age with sub-degree qualifications qualified in health occupations and teaching, while most men acquired technical qualifications aimed towards industry or business services. This suggests that the welfare professions may have some relationship with religious activity, although the odds ratio is not statistically significant for mothers. It is large for fathers, however. One possible explanation which was considered for the higher rates of religious activity among the children of professionals and welfare service workers is that some professionals work for religious organisations, either directly as clergy or indirectly for church charities. However, a rather small percentage of fathers were clergy, perhaps because many clergy are celibate. There was a weak association for the young people between being active in a religious and a civic group. However, as will be shown in the next section, parental religious activity was not a good predictor of children's civic activity. This issue would bear more investigation with a larger sample. However, it may simply reflect the more even geographical spread of professional and welfare service workers, more of whom may live in small communities where participation in church activities (e.g. fund-raising activities) is a community act, but not associated with church attendance or religious belief.

Overall activity: Among father's characteristics the strongest predictor of children's overall activity was education, with all levels of education above the lowest having an effect, increasing with the level of the qualification. However, manager fathers were also associated with high rates of overall activity, as was employment in business and welfare services. For mothers, employment in these services also predicted the highest levels of overall activity but stronger effects were found on the education and class variables. Not much difference for mothers is found between the professionals and managers (whose partners are not taken into account in this analysis), however tertiary education has a stronger effect than school qualifications.

An unexpected finding was that children of self-employed mothers had quite high levels of civic, religious and overall activity. The women's self-employed category (unlike the men's, which is predominantly craftsmen) is composed of a sizeable proportion of small proprietors, in the catering services (publicans, café-owners, etc.) and welfare services (nursing homes, childcare). Perhaps this denotes a type of petty bourgeois community orientation realised in the type of community in which such small proprietors survive. Generally the results are much stronger for women than for men, and this may partly reflect the lower percentage of absent mothers (11%) to absent fathers (31%). The odds ratios for absent or unemployed parents are not reported, as with one exception, although they were negative, they were not statistically significant. The loss of a female parent was associated with lower levels of Sports and Social Club activity.

In summary the strongest effects seem to be those of mother's education, which influence civic and religious activity and the range of organisational activities engaged in. The Sport and Social category of activities seems to be little affected by class or education, though there is a suggestion that the children of managers may participate more in these clubs. Before going on to analyse the joint effects of the variables, the organisational involvement of parents is described.

Parents Activity and Membership

For purposes of presentation, membership and activity were combined into single variables. This is quite a rough measure but serves for present purposes. Figure 5 below shows levels of overall membership and activity by social class.

Click here for Figure 5

It can be seen that there is only a slight gradient in overall membership/activity by social class and gender, though inactive or unemployed women have lower rates. This is consistent with the research of Warde et al (2001) and Savage et al (2002) who report that most adults have some link at some time with social and civic associations. Figures 6a and 6b show how involvement is distributed over different types of organisation.

Click here for Figures 6 a and b

Managerial fathers are rather more likely to be involved in Sports or Social Clubs. However professional, self-employed and manual fathers are not far behind. Professional fathers are much more likely to be involved in civic activity. Though their rates of Trade Union membership are quite high, much higher than those of managers, they do not reach the level of manual workers. Although rates of religious activity are quite low (averaging about 20%), they are highest among professionals. Generally the pattern of father's activity is consistent with that of their children. Professional and managerial mothers (who are more similar educationally than fathers) are quite similar in rates of civic activity, with professionals having only a slight advantage. However, professionals are much more likely to be involved in Trade Unions or Professional organisations. Although the difference with professionals is small, self-employed women are most likely to be involved in Parents/Tenants/Residents' associations, and, since this variable is closely associated with the other civic variables, this is consistent with their positive effect on children's civic engagement.

Parents' organisational affiliation and children's activity

Since the number of organisational variables is large, stepwise logistic regressions were used to detect the variables with the strongest relationship with children's activities. Unsurprisingly, children's activity in particular organisations was best predicted by their parents' membership or activity in the same organisations (see Table 3 below).

Additionally, for civic activity, father's membership of a professional association is important. This may underline the importance of professional status, or, since membership of a professional association is a requirement for the older professions, it may signal higher occupational status. Mother's or father's membership of Parent's or Tenant's groups is also important for all three activities. In the case of the Sports variable it has a negative relationship, perhaps signalling a conflict of interests in the use of leisure time. It is closely related to the other civic variables and was omitted from this cluster only because no young people were members. It is likely to signal involvement in local communities and it is not surprising that it has these associations with children's civic and religious activity. The variable which best predicted overall activity was parents' overall activity. Highly socially engaged parents pass on these orientations.

Modelling Joint effects of Parental Characteristics

As noted above, parental characteristics are highly clustered. In models fitting the individual parental variables, only mother's qualifications emerged as statistically significant for most activities. However, the object of these analyses was to understand more clearly how the variables related to each other and to children's engagement. Therefore it is wished to take into account the character of partnerships, where for instance a non-graduate manager is married to a graduate woman. Summary variables were created which identified all pairings of the service-class partnerships: manager-manager, professional-professional, manager-professional, manager-other and professional-other. Frequencies in some categories were low and the categories eventually used were 'one or both managers', 'manager&professional', 'one or both professionals'. Non-service-class people were coded into a single category with the exception of self-employed women, who were separately identified. Pairings of mother's and father's qualifications were created and tested in a similar way and the highest qualified parent was used to identify the categories, which became 'both below A-level/NVQ3' 'one or both A-level/NVQ3' 'one or both sub-degree' and 'one or both graduates'. Industry was coded to two categories 'Welfare services' and 'Other'.

The modelling strategy, as described in the methods section, was to fit the explanatory variables sequentially, with parents' class fitted first. If some or all of the effects of parents' class are associated with their education (which is prior to their occupation), this will be detectable in a weakening of the class parameters. The results are shown in Table 4 below.

Civic Activity: In the first sub- column of the Civic Activity regression, the effects for Parent's Class, uncontrolled for education are shown. All three service class groups, and self-employed mothers have statistically significant relationships. However, in the second column, after fitting education qualifications, only the 'Professional/Managerial' partnership remains statistically significant (although much reduced in strength) of the service class groups. Self-employed mothers remain important as many of these women are not very well qualified. Parent's highest qualification being sub-degree has a weak effect (p.10), while one or both parents being graduates is statistically significant. This model shows that the effects for professionals and the weak effect for managers, is associated with their educational status. The third sub-column shows the odds ratios when parental activity is added. The odds ratios for all the class and qualification groups (except self-employed mothers) cease to be statistically significant, while parents' affiliation remain statistically significant. This makes it clear that it is the civic activity of highly educated professionals and managers which boosts their children's own civic activity. The effects for self-employed mothers are reduced to the 10% significance level. However, this does not mean that their civic activity does not influence their children. Rather their odds ratio is unlikely to be reduced by 'membership of professional organisations'. While they are quite likely to be members of Parent/tenant associations, this membership had ceased to be statistically significant, when fitted with membership of other civic groups.

Sports and Social : As noted earlier, neither parents' social class nor education has much relationship with their children's sports and social activities. However, families with at least one managerial parent are more likely to have children who are active. For the managerial-professional pairing this remains the case, even when parents' own activity is fitted.

Religious: The effect of having service class (particularly professional) parents is much reduced when qualifications are fitted and disappears when parents' own religious membership or activity is fitted.

Overall activity: The fitting of the qualification variable reduces the strength of the social class variable. With the fitting of parents' overall activity, the only social class category to remain statistically significant is the professional- managerial pairing. The graduate education category also remains statistically significant.

The models generally suggest that effects for professionals or managers are attributable to their education. The effects for education are attenuated or vanish when parents' organisational activity is fitted. Since, in time, education qualifications are prior to the measurement of organisational activities, the simplest interpretation is that graduates' and diplomates' tendency towards higher levels of civic, religious and overall affiliation are passed on to their children. The professional-managerial pairing seems to have a stronger effect than any of the other service-class categories. This pairing signals an intact family, however controls for lone parenthood did not increase the odds ratios for the other service class categories by very much. The pairing also signals a homogeneous service class pairing, in which, in 80 percent of cases, the manager is the male partner. This type of family may have some advantage which has not been recognized or tested here. Alternatively, given the number of tests carried out in the analyses reported, the result may reflect random sampling fluctuation.

Employment in the Welfare Services

Industry was not fitted in these models, since the hypothesis about welfare services is essentially an interactional hypothesis, i.e. it is only with the highly qualified, that employment in the welfare services is expected to be important, and it is only expected to be important for civic activity. A model which split tertiary qualifications into four categories; sub-degree, sub-degree employed in welfare services, degree and degree employed in welfare services was fitted. This is equivalent to fitting an interaction between industry and qualifications, but only for the two qualification levels described above. The model is shown in Table 5 below.

It can be seen that the children of mothers or fathers with sub-degree or graduate qualifications who work in welfare services are markedly more likely to be active in civic organisations than people with these qualifications who work elsewhere. This lends support to the hypothesis that employment of graduates in the welfare services is an important agency in their higher civic activity. This cannot be considered as a causal effect. As Parkin (discussed in Bagguley, 1995) has pointed out, young people may aim at these services because of prior sets of values or motivations, inherited from parents perhaps. Rather, a particular configuration of professional graduate employment in the state sector has developed in the twentieth century and this is associated with civic activity.


The results reported support an interpretation that the children of professionals, particularly highly educated professionals working in the welfare services, are socialised towards engaging in civic activity. There is also some suggestion that the children of managers are socialised more towards sporting and social clubs. This might make sense for managers who expect their children to follow them into the type of labour market where these types of skill or networks can lay the basis for useful informal networks (see e.g. Scott (1991) on the importance of informal networks in corporate life). However, this is highly speculative.

It is not really possible to evaluate the social goods arising from this in any comprehensive way. Social goods are difficult to define and measure in any absolute sense. However, comparisons can be made, over time and between countries. Individual crucial issues can be addressed. One of these must be the quality and integrity of public sector employees. Despite the marketisation of the Civil Service (and attendant scandals) during the recent Conservative government (Corby and White, 1999) and conflicts between Special Advisers and civil servants during the Labour government, the British state bureaucracy is still perceived as relatively uncorrupt. Effective codes of practice seem to have been developed and defended and it is likely that the universities contribute to this through the codes of conduct they purvey (cognitive rationality, truthfulness, efficiency, open debate). Though this may contribute to trust in the state, if not in the government, it is not the most important factor for social cohesion, especially when compared with the damaging effects of unmerited poverty and insecurity. Increased production of graduates is no guarantor of social cohesion. Putnam et al (1993) point out that graduates are more prominent in civic life in the poorly governed and more unequal regions of Southern Italy, compared to the better governed and more equal Northern regions.

UK universities have recently expanded, more or less doubling their intake. This was yoked to cuts in funding, with a drop in unit funding per student. Universities are expected to raise more of their own funding and adopt more casualised employment practices. This contrasts to the previous role of the universities which was formed within the modernising movement through which the middle-class seized a modicum of political power. The relationship between professionals and the state strengthened with the development of the welfare state (Savage et al, 1992; Danielsen and Savage, 2001). With these developments the universities became ever more integrated into the state, drawing an increased proportion of funding from the state both for the training of state employees and for the development of new science and technology (Archer, 1979). Students were fully funded, a policy which was justifiable since the majority of them would work in state employment. The state acted as a sponsor for able working-class students, breaking the (theoretically) infinite regress of educational attainment and social privilege. This role is currently changing as the universities expand. The majority of graduates today will not enter public sector employment, nor are they sponsored by the state to the extent that occurred in the past. Large numbers of graduates will continue to work in professional capacities, though based more in the private sector, and since asymmetries of information inevitably exist between professionals and their clients, it is likely that society will expect universities to instill the appropriate value system. However, one commentator has recently argued that the under-funded expansion of the British University system has demoralised both students and staff (Wolf, 2002). Among other issues, many universities must now allocate resources to identifying student plagiarism. To the extent that the enhanced civic activity of graduates was linked to their state employment and this link has been weakened, it is possible that graduates' civic activity may decline, or change its form.

The more difficult question is the extent to which involvement by graduates in civic activity in the UK was productive of overall social goods. As Nie et al (1996) argue, where such involvement signals positional contests, there may not be any social benefit. Social costs may ensue as less well-positioned citizens identify exclusionary strategies. One outcome which must be considered is that, although it may not be possible to quantify exactly the social value of graduates' civic engagement in the past, the social value of graduates' civic engagement will decline in comparison in the future, either because it is less in quantity or because it is more instrumental in nature, given the more insecure nature of professional employment in the private sector or in a quasi-marketised public sector. Although the education system is the most comprehensive interface which the state has with citizens, it cannot generate participation or consent where economic and social policies fail to promote social justice and respect for all citizens.


1For instance, Danielsen and Savage (2001) discuss differences between Norway and the United Kingdom in the articulation of the development of national cultures with higher education and the professions. They note the importance of differences in economic structure, different trajectories of modernisation and the effects of post-war developments.

2Membership/activity in any one year under- represents the links which people have with various social organisations over time. Warde et al (2001) and Savage et al (2002) show that most people have links into some social organisations and many people are potential recruits into particular organisations.


I wish to acknowledge the support of the ESRC-funded Centre for Longitudinal Analysis of Social Policy, who funded this research. I also wish to acknowledge the helpful advice of Drs. Marco Francesconi and Elena Bardesi


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