Trends in parental education
Since 1974, the percentage of children ages 6 to 18 whose parents have less than a high school diploma (or the equivalent) has declined substantially, while the percentage with a bachelor’s degree or higher has increased. For example, in 1974, 58 percent of non-Hispanic black children had a mother who lacked a high school degree; by 2017, this number had decreased to 9 percent. During the same period, the proportion of non-Hispanic black children whose mothers had attained at least a bachelor’s degree increased from 4 to 27 percent. Similarly, the percentage of non-Hispanic black children living with a father who has less than a high school diploma (or the equivalent) declined from 61 to 7 percent, and the percentage living with a father who has a bachelor’s degree or higher increased from 4 to 28 percent. Similar trends are seen for mothers and fathers of non-Hispanic white and Hispanic children (Appendix 1), and for parents of younger children (Appendix 2). However, the Current Population Survey (CPS) questions used to obtain educational attainment were changed in 1994 and weights were adjusted, so prior data may not be directly comparable with later years.
In 2017, 12 percent of school-age children lived with a mother without a high school diploma, 23 percent lived with a mother who had a high school diploma and no further schooling, 29 percent lived with a mother who had some college education, and 36 percent lived with a mother who had a bachelor’s degree or higher. For residential fathers, the corresponding percentages were 12, 26, 25, and 38 percent, respectively (Appendix 1).