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Although sociologists and economists have been widely concerned with parental investment in children, that investment has rarely been examined directly. The Parent Survey of the High School and Beyond data set provides material for examining the traits of parents and children that shape parental payment for higher education. Parents' reported willingness and ability to pay, along with savings for children's future education, are shaped first by total income and the number of children who must share that income. Moreover, parental investment in higher education is increased when the parents themselves received parental financial support, which suggests continuity over generations. Gender of parent and child, academic achievement of child, marital status, education, and educational aspirations have more mixed and weaker effects. These findings cause a rethinking of the mechanisms of intergenerational influence as seen by status-attainment, human capital, and resource-dilution perspectives.

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