Emma Tominey, University of York

School networks, higher education and social mobility.


Intergenerational persistence in education is strong, particularly at the top of parental education distribution. The mechanisms are not well understood and we focus on the role of social networks. We estimate the causal effect of having high school peers with highly educated parents on the decision to choose an elite university degree (including law, STEM or medicine) and ask if these effects differ across socio-economic status (SES). Exploiting within-school cross-cohort variation in the proportion of elite parent peers, we find a meaningful effect of social networks on elite education choices. There is important heterogeneity, as the role of elite parent peers is substantially higher in high SES compared to low SES households. These differences are only partially explained by ability gaps across SES, and an important role comes from local upward mobility which can create an aspiration gap. Social networks create a double disadvantage for low SES students, whereby both the exposure and the effect of these elite peers is lower.

Emma Tominey is a labour and family Economist working on applied microeconometric methods.  Her research has quantified that the harm from youth unemployment lasts a lifetime; identified important interactions between government policy and the household in insuring against income shocks; extended the classic models of intergenerational mobility by allowing for differential productivity of parental income across stages of childhood; evidenced strong complementarities in the productivity of parental income across childhood stages; evaluated the effectiveness of two UK government agency incentive schemes.

Currently she is analysing how and why parents investments in their children respond to a change in the cost of parenting; exploring inequalities in socio-emotional abilities of young boys and girls and am modelling the effect of joint parental decisions in pre-school years on later achievement of children.

You can read more about Emma Tominey here