Table of Contents

Vanity Economics

Vanity Economics

An Economic Exploration of Sex, Marriage and Family

C. Simon Fan

This book presents an accessible and sometimes controversial economic exploration of numerous issues surrounding sex, marriage and family. It analyzes the role of ‘vanity’, defined as social status and self-esteem, in social and economic behaviors.

Chapter 22: Family background and children's education

C. Simon Fan

Subjects: economics and finance, behavioural and experimental economics, institutional economics


Many of the previous chapters have highlighted that children are their parents' most important vanity affiliates. In other words, most parents strongly hope that their children will be successful, which would yield vanity for the parents and fulfil their own dreams. Indeed, an accomplished child often brings its parents much more vanity than a luxurious car. However, the modern world is a highly competitive environment in which only a fraction of young people will achieve success. In 2011, Amy Chua, a professor at Yale Law School, published a book entitled Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother in which she described strict parenting techniques that she believes were crucial to her daughters' high educational achievements. The global attention the book received due to its controversial elements illustrates people's paramount concern for their children's educational attainment and the fierce competition involved in ensuring they enter elite universities. This chapter describes how family background affects children's educational attainment and career success. A positive correlation of social and economic status between parents and children has long been recognized. There is a large amount of empirical literature on intergenerational mobility that dates back to the classical writings of Galton (1869, 1889). Galton first studied the correlation of height between parents and children. He made two findings. First, taller parents tend to have taller children. Second, the height advantage (or disadvantage) of a 'dynasty' relative to the height of the entire population of a society tends to decrease over time. The first finding can be arrived at from daily observation.

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