The influence of family background on educational expectations: a comparative study

Wangyang Li, Yu Xie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


It has been well documented that East Asian students in primary and secondary education academically outperform their Western counterparts. One prominent explanation points to the role of culture. This study explores the cultural explanation from a comparative perspective. Analyzing data from mainland China, Taiwan, South Korea, the U.S., Germany, and Australia, we examine the variation across social contexts in the importance of family SES to parents’ and children’s educational expectations, paying particular attention to comparison between East-Asian and Western societies. We find that educational expectations are much less dependent on family background in East Asian societies than in the West, in that parents and children in the former all tend to hold high educational expectations, irrespective of family socioeconomic status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-294
Number of pages26
JournalChinese Sociological Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 26 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Demography
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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