An increase in the resources of a person’s parents-in-law is positively associated with a change in their own economic status, according to a new study from Finland. The findings have been published in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility.

“Many scholars have focused on family members such as grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, but studying the role of partners’ parents is missing even though in-law relations are popular discussion subjects. During the preparation of this article I became more and more interested in partner’s parents, thus there are new studies about it in-process,” said study author Sanna Kailaheimo-Lönnqvist, a doctoral student at the University of Turku.

The researchers examined the association between the resources of parents-in-law and individuals’ occupational attainment using data from the Finnish Growth Environment Panel. The longitudinal data came from almost 100,000 individuals born between 1970 and 1979, and included information such as socioeconomic attainment and relationship status.

The researchers found that individuals tended to achieve higher occupational status when they had wealthier parents-in-law, even after the economic resources of their own parents and their partner had been accounted for.

“Partner’s parents’ occupational standing is related to individual’s occupational development, but the influence of own parents’ and partner’s occupational standings is stronger. High-status partner’s parents benefit most those who themselves have high-status parents. The advantage is stronger if the couple is married and has children. Our results also suggest that the influence of parents-in-law is stronger for women than for men,” Kailaheimo-Lönnqvist explained.

But the study — like all research — includes some limitations.

“Register data is rich in many aspects, but it also has some limitations. The limitation of our study is that our data does not allow us to measure the quality or frequency of contact with parents-in-law. In the future, it would be interesting to study whether the influence of parents-in-law varies in these respects,” Kailaheimo-Lönnqvist said.

The study, “Behind every successful (wo)man is a successful parent-in-law? The association between resources of the partner’s parents and individual’s occupational attainment“, was authored by Sanna Kailaheimo-Lönnqvist, Elina Kilpi-Jakonen, Antti O. Tanskanen, and Jani Erola