← return to In the Media

Numbers that enlighten

Published in 18/02/2021

For decades, social scientists have been developing increasingly effective ways of understanding people’s socioeconomic characteristics and their correlations. The building of all knowledge in this area of science is based on the pillars of statistics and field research. Technological advances have enabled the creation of increasingly robust databases to make life easier for scholars – and for the benefit of those surveyed. They are tools that serve all types of research. On the website of the Institute for Mobility and Social Development, this combination of science and technology allows the analysis, through hundreds of variables, of the educational mobility behavior between generations for the 25-to-65 year old population in Brazil.

The Institute’s hot-site with intergenerational mobility indicators begins with information on the level of education of parents, mothers, or whoever is responsible and has a more advanced degree of education, and goes on to relate these data, together with thirty indicators of socioeconomic results, to the level of education of children. Various topics are addressed, such as access to technology, housing conditions, household and individual income, sanitation services, and mortality. The tool allows sectioning by time of birth (from 1949 to 1989), sex, skin color/race, region of the country or area of residence (rural or urban). From the possible intersections, approximately 450 frames are produced for analysis support.

Educational intergenerational mobility expresses the possibility of children reaching higher or lower levels of education than their parents. This variation indicates the degree of influence that the parents’ educational level exerts on the next generation. “The fact that one person has an income level ten times lower than another’s is closely associated with whether the father has not completed High School or whether he has a college degree. Other indicators, such as living in housing with inadequate sanitation or having access to broadband or not, are also closely associated with parents’ education and further reinforce this scenario”, explains Sergio Guimarães, economist and research director at IMDS.

Indicators, in the field of statistics, can be measures used to quantify an abstract social concept. Example: one of the tables on the IMDS website points out that, for every 100 people with a father who completed higher education, 94 have a microcomputer, tablet, or both. Among the children of uneducated parents, the proportion of those without a microcomputer or tablet jumps to 59%. On the IMDS website, the indicator “owns a microcomputer or tablet at home”, associated with the theme “durable goods and services”, gives concrete outlines to one of the gaps in intergenerational mobility.

Surfing through the hot-site leads to numerous discoveries. The observation that, for every 100 people with parents who completed higher education or more, 70 reached the same level, allows us to conclude that the children of parents with complete higher education are more likely to equal them in education than their contemporaries in the other groups – the descendants of uneducated parents, with incomplete or complete elementary and high school and with incomplete higher education. Another correlation, curious, but no less revealing, shows that more than half of the children of uneducated parents do not have a washing machine at home, while among the children of parents with a college degree or more, the group that washes the bridal trousseau in the tank is restricted to six out of 100.

The data that feed graphs and tables on the IMDS portal come from the Socio-Occupational Mobility supplement of the National Household Sample Survey (PNAD) of 2014, the first survey of its kind carried out by IBGE since 1996. The interviewees refer to the highest educational level that father, mother, or other guardian had when they lived together, and were 15 years old. Hence the existence of all the spreadsheets, from High School to doctorate, are precious sources for the work of public managers and researchers in search of inputs on which to base their investigations in a more solid way.

“The challenge is to look at the correlations between the information. What are the chances for adults with parents without formal education having access to the Internet, via broadband, and what are the chances for adults who had parents with higher education?”, asks the researcher and statistician Samuel Franco, in front of the team that set up the hot-site with the Institute’s mobility indicators. The answers are tabulated on the website itself: 29.6% and 89.4%, respectively. Franco also says that the system is often used as a game. “For many people to whom I presented the database, the first impulse was to look for their own information references. They start thinking about their own cases”, he says. It’s a good start. Follow the link..