Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Educational Policy and Leadership Studies

First Advisor

An, Brian P.

First Committee Member

Paulsen, Michael B.

Second Committee Member

Bills, David B.

Third Committee Member

Pascarella, Ernest T.

Fourth Committee Member

Noonan, Mary C.


Graduate students represent 15% of the students and one-third of the graduates of colleges and universities across the United States. They are leading thinkers in higher education institutions and businesses across the country and around the world. In many fields, such as law, graduate or professional school is required for entry-level employment, whereas in other fields, such as business, graduate education may enhance performance and opportunities for promotion.

The educational stratification and college-choice literature document the influence of family background (distal family) on educational attainment. These literatures focus on the traditional undergraduate student without considering the different preferences and responsibilities (context) of potential graduate students considering enrollment. Potential graduate students are often older than high school students making a college choice, are independent from their parents, and may have a spouse and children (proximal family) at the forefront of their educational plans.

This dissertation builds on the educational stratification and college-choice literature by considering post-baccalaureate (graduate) enrollment specifically. This study explores the effects of marriage, parenthood, and any corresponding gender effects on whether and when a bachelor's degree recipient enrolls in graduate education.

To investigate these proximal family effects and gender effects, I analyzed data from the National Center for Education Statistics' Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study 1993/03--a longitudinal study that surveyed over 11,000 students at the time of their bachelor's degree completion and three additional times over 10 years.

Using survival analysis (event history analysis), I measured the amount of time between baccalaureate degree completion and first graduate enrollment. Using this measure, I compared differences in the odds of graduate enrollment and timing of graduate enrollment based on marital status, parental status, and gender.

Overall, more women than men enrolled in graduate education, and men enrolled sooner than women. The results showed that being a parent had a negative effect on if and when an individual enrolled in graduate school. Being married also had a negative effect on if and when an individual enrolled in graduate school, with married men experiencing a slightly stronger negative effect than married women. The combined effect of being married and being a parent had the strongest negative effect on graduate enrollment for men and women, but more so for women.

By better understanding graduate college choice, institutions can more effectively use resources and improve the opportunities and experiences for graduate students and, specifically, graduate students with families. Minimizing barriers to entry may level the playing field between graduate degree aspirants with families and those without families.


college choice, educational stratification, event history analysis, family background, graduate enrollment, survival analysis


x, 99 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 94-99).


Copyright 2013 Michelle Kronfeld