Children’s Reports of Parents’ Education Level: Does it Matter Whom You Ask and What You Ask About?


  • Frauke Kreuter Joint Program in Survey Methodology
  • Stephanie Eckman Instistute fuer Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung
  • Kai Maaz Max-Planck Institute for Educational Research
  • Rainer Watermann University of Göttingen



surveys of children, education scores, SES


Education researchers who study the effect of family social background on student achievement often use students’ survey reports of parental education to investigate these effects. However, past research has demonstrated that students misreport their parents’ education levels. We expand upon this research in two ways. First we use cognitive theories about the response process to develop and test hypotheses about reporting inconsistencies across these variables. Second we evaluate the impact of student misreporting on estimates of the relationship between parental education levels and student math achievement. Using data from the German administration of PISA 2000 (OECD Programme for International Student Assessment) in which both students and parents were asked to report parental variables, we show that reporting inconsistencies are a function of student achievement: students with higher math scores tend to provide reports that are more consistent with their parents' reports. This interesting case of differential measurement error has consequences for comparisons of the effects of parental background on student achievement across different subgroups of the population and across countries (a common use of PISA data and other international studies similar to PISA).

Author Biography

Frauke Kreuter, Joint Program in Survey Methodology

Assistant Professor




How to Cite

Kreuter, F., Eckman, S., Maaz, K., & Watermann, R. (2010). Children’s Reports of Parents’ Education Level: Does it Matter Whom You Ask and What You Ask About?. Survey Research Methods, 4(3), 127–138.




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