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The proportion of parents of children ages 6-18 who have a bachelor’s degree or more has increased markedly over the past 30 years; however, racial/ethnic disparities persist, and in some cases have widened.

Importance

Higher levels of parent educational attainment are strongly associated with positive outcomes for children in many areas, including school readiness,[1] educational achievement,[2] incidence of low birthweight, health-related behaviors including smoking and binge drinking,[3],[4] and pro-social activities such as volunteering.[5] Children of more educated parents are also likely to have access to greater
material, human, and social resources.[6]

Trends

67_fig167_fig2Since 1974, the percentage of children, ages 6-18, whose parents have less than a high school diploma or equivalent has declined substantially, while the percentage with a bachelor’s degree or higher has increased. For example, in 1974, 58 percent of black[i] children had a mother who lacked a high school degree; by 2014, this number had decreased to 9 percent. (Figure 1) During the same period, the proportion of black children whose mothers attained at least a bachelor’s degree increased from 4 to 25 percent. However, in 2015, the proportion decreased to 22 percent. (Figure 2) Similarly, the percentage of black children living with a father who has less than a high school diploma or equivalent declined from 61 to 9 percent, and the percentage living with a father who has a bachelor’s degree or higher increased from four to 31 percent. Similar trends are seen for mothers and fathers of white and Hispanic children (Appendix 1), and for younger children (Appendix 2).

In 2015, 13 percent of school-age children lived with a mother without a high school diploma, 24 percent with a mother who had a diploma and no further schooling, 30 percent with a mother who had some college education, and 33 percent with a mother who had at least a bachelor’s degree. For residential fathers, the corresponding percentages were 13, 26, 24, and 37 percent, respectively. (Appendix 1)

Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin[7]

67_fig3In 2015, 14 percent of both mothers and fathers of school-age Hispanic children had a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 22 and 31 percent of black children’s mothers and fathers, respectively, and 43 and 44 percent of white children’s mothers and fathers, respectively. Among Mexican children, only 10 percent of mothers fathers had a bachelor’s degree or higher. (Figure 3) Similarly, 34 percent of Hispanic children’s mothers, and 38 percent of their fathers, lacked a high school diploma, compared with 9 percent of black children’s mothers and fathers, and 5 and 6 percent, respectively, for mothers and fathers of white children. (Appendix 1)

State and Local Estimates

None available.

International Estimates

Estimates from the
Program for International Student Assessment for 30 countries, including the United States, are available. (select father and mother’s highest education under student variables).

National Goals

None.

Related Indicators

Definition

This indicator reports the highest level of educational attainment among parents living in the home of the child at the time of the interview. The category of “some college” includes associate’s degrees and vocational/technical school certificates and degrees.

Data Sources

Data for 2007-2015: Child Trends analysis of Current Population Survey (CPS) March Supplement.

Data for 2005: National Center for Education Statistics. (2007). Percentage of children ages 6 to 18, by parent’s highest educational attainment and race/ethnicity: 2005 ( NCES 2007-039) Available at: http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2007/minoritytrends/tables/table_5.asp.

Data for 1974 – 1999: Reproduced from U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2001). The condition of education: 2001 (NCES 2001–072). , Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Table 4-1. Based on March Current Population Surveys analysis.

Raw Data Source

Current Population
Survey, March Supplement

http://www.bls.gov/cps/home.htm

 

Appendix 1 – Percentage Distribution of Children, Ages 6-18, by Residential Parents’ Educational Attainment and Child’s Race and Hispanic Origin: Selected Years, 1974-2015

1974 1979 1984 1989 1994 1999 2005 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Mother’s highest education level
Less than high school 14.8 13.7 13.3 13.2 13.5 13.4 13.5 12.9 12.4 12.9
White, non-Hispanic 27.1 22.1 16.8 12.0 9.5 6.9 5.9 5.5 4.7 5.0 5.2 4.8 4.7 4.6 3.7 5.0
Black, non-Hispanic 57.6 46.4 34.8 26.3 20.0 19.6 18.2 13.6 12.9 12.9 13.5 12.3 10.7 10.8 8.7 9.0
Hispanic 61.8 60.4 60.5 55.8 51.8 49.2 41.3 39.6 39.5 37.4 37.0 37.0 36.9 34.9 34.0 34.3
Mexican 48.1 48.0 45.2 43.5 43.7 44.1 41.9 40.3 40.5
High school diploma or equivalent 29.4 28.5 27.9 28.1 27.0 26.5 25.4 24.6 24.1 24.3
White, non-Hispanic 51.4 50.4 50.3 48.8 37.9 35.2 29.0 27.5 26.4 26.4 25.2 24.2 22.7 22.2 21.0 21.2
Black, non-Hispanic 32.1 36.1 42.6 44.4 40.0 37.1 34.4 35.1 35.7 34.9 31.5 32.5 32.5 28.5 28.5 30.6
Hispanic 28.9 28.3 28.2 28.7 26.9 25.2 28.6 28.6 29.1 30.0 29.2 29.2 28.5 28.9 29.6 28.9
Mexican 27.3 27.2 29.1 29.8 28.8 28.4 28.7 29.3 28.8
Some college, including vocational/technical 30.3 29.9 30.5 30.2 30.6 30.0 29.8 30.4 29.8 29.5
White, non-Hispanic 12.2 16.1 18.3 21.3 31.0 31.4 33.4 32.5 33.3 32.5 32.8 32.3 32.3 32.5 32.7 30.8
Black, non-Hispanic 6.8 12.5 15.6 19.8 30.0 29.5 32.2 34.0 34.7 35.5 37.8 36.6 36.6 38.0 37.8 38.0
Hispanic 5.7 7.2 7.7 10.2 15.6 18.2 20.2 21.3 20.8 21.6 21.5 21.5 21.5 22.7 21.1 22.7
Mexican 17.6 17.7 18.3 18.8 19.5 18.4 20.3 19.6 20.9
Bachelor’s degree or higher 25.5 27.9 28.3 28.5 29.0 30.2 31.4 32.0 33.8 33.4
White, non-Hispanic 9.3 11.4 14.6 17.9 21.6 26.4 31.7 34.5 35.6 36.2 36.9 38.7 40.4 40.7 42.6 43.0
Black, non-Hispanic 3.6 4.9 7.0 9.4 10.1 13.9 15.3 17.3 16.7 16.7 17.2 18.6 20.3 22.7 25.0 22.4
Hispanic 3.5 4.1 3.7 5.2 5.7 7.4 9.9 10.6 10.6 11.1 12.2 12.2 13.1 13.5 15.3 14.1
Mexican 7.1 7.1 7.4 8.0 8.1 9.2 9.2 10.7 9.8
Father’s highest education level
Less than high school 13.6 13.5 13.3 13.2 13.0 13.3 13.6 13.1 12.6 13.4
White, non-Hispanic 28.6 22.4 16.2 12.2 9.1 8.1 6.9 6.4 5.8 6.0 5.7 5.7 5.5 6.0 5.2 5.7
Black, non-Hispanic 61.3 44.3 33.1 25.4 18.2 14.6 11.5 10.8 11.5 10.1 9.5 10.5 7.0 8.0 9.9 8.5
Hispanic 58.3 57.2 56.3 51.6 51.1 48.9 41.5 41.3 41.3 40.0 39.4 38.8 40.5 37.5 35.5 38.0
Mexican 50.1 48.7 46.8 47.1 45.7 48.1 45.0 41.8 44.3
High school diploma or equivalent 31.0 29.8 28.7 28.7 29.2 28.9 27.3 26.9 26.1 26.0
White, non-Hispanic 38.3 38.7 39.0 38.4 32.2 31.5 30.6 29.7 28.7 28.3 28.5 28.0 26.3 25.1 24.9 25.1
Black, non-Hispanic 27.1 35.7 38.4 40.4 42.2 39.3 41.8 38.0 34.9 35.6 37.3 37.0 33.9 33.3 31.0 30.2
Hispanic 24.9 25.0 25.0 27.2 23.2 26.2 28.1 28.7 28.7 29.7 30.1 30.7 29.3 31.4 28.5 28.6
Mexican 28.3 29.0 30.1 29.9 31.0 29.1 31.8 27.5 28.5
Some college, including vocational/technical 25.8 24.7 25.5 25.8 25.0 24.3 24.5 24.8 25.4 24.2
White, non-Hispanic 13.2 15.5 18.3 20.1 27.4 26.8 27.4 26.2 27.2 27.0 26.7 26.1 26.2 26.9 26.9 25.6
Black, non-Hispanic 7.6 12.7 16.3 20.6 23.5 29.7 29.5 30.8 32.6 34.4 32.3 29.5 34.1 31.8 33.6 30.7
Hispanic 8.4 9.5 10.5 13.4 17.5 14.7 19.0 17.3 17.3 18.2 17.5 17.8 17.2 17.1 20.5 19.2
Mexican 13.5 14.5 15.2 14.4 15.1 14.8 14.8 20.4 17.1
Bachelor’s degree or higher 29.7 32.1 32.5 32.3 32.8 33.6 34.6 35.3 35.9 36.5
White, non-Hispanic 19.9 23.4 26.5 29.3 31.3 33.6 35.1 37.7 38.3 38.7 39.0 40.3 42.0 42.0 43.0 43.7
Black, non-Hispanic 4.0 7.3 12.2 13.7 16.1 16.5 17.3 20.3 21.0 20.0 20.9 23.1 25.0 26.9 25.5 30.5
Hispanic 8.4 8.3 8.2 7.7 8.3 10.1 11.4 12.8 12.7 12.1 13.0 12.8 13.0 14.1 15.5 14.2
Mexican 8.1 7.8 7.8 8.7 8.2 7.9 8.4 10.3 10.1
Note: Information on parents’ highest education level is available only for those parents who live in the same household with their child. The Current Population Survey (CPS) questions used to obtain educational attainment were changed in 1994 and weights were adjusted. Percentages may not add to 100.0 due to rounding.

Sources: Data for 1974 – 1999: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of Education 2001, Table 4-1, NCES 2001–072, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2001. Data for 2005: National Center for Education Statistics. (2007). Percentage of children ages 6 to 18, by parent’s highest educational attainment and race/ethnicity: 2005. In NCES 2007-039 (Ed.), http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2007/minoritytrends/tables/table_5.asp. Washington, DC: Author. Data for 2007-2015: Child Trends analysis of Current Population Survey (CPS) March Supplement.

 

Appendix 2 – Percentage Distribution of Children, Ages Birth to 5, by Residential Parents’ Educational Attainment and Child’s Race and Hispanic Origin: 2007-2015

2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Mother’s highest education level
Less than high school 15.8 16.0 15.0 15.4 14.8 13.7 12.8 12.7 12.3
White, non-Hispanic 7.3 6.5 6.0 6.3 5.4 5.4 4.9 4.4 4.9
Black, non-Hispanic 15.7 18.0 14.7 15.6 16.6 13.2 12.7 15.1 13.0
Hispanic 38.9 38.3 35.6 35.4 34.6 31.9 29.9 30.2 28.8
Mexican 43.9 44.1 41.0 40.1 39.7 36.5 34.0 34.0 30.8
High school diploma or equivalent 26.6 25.8 25.3 24.8 24.5 25.1 25.2 22.7 23.9
White, non-Hispanic 23.9 22.6 21.9 21.0 20.5 20.5 20.1 18.2 19.6
Black, non-Hispanic 33.6 34.3 32.5 33.0 31.5 33.6 32.3 27.0 31.5
Hispanic 29.6 30.0 30.3 28.9 29.0 30.8 33.0 30.2 29.9
Mexican 29.5 29.4 31.2 30.4 30.6 32.0 34.6 32.3 32.5
Some college, including vocational/technical 27.2 27.1 28.1 28.1 28.3 28.6 28.7 29.4 28.4
White, non-Hispanic 28.4 29.0 30.1 30.0 29.6 30.1 29.8 31.4 28.7
Black, non-Hispanic 35.2 33.1 34.3 34.3 35.2 34.8 35.4 34.6 33.3
Hispanic 20.4 19.9 21.9 23.0 22.8 23.1 24.3 24.0 25.8
Mexican 18.4 17.4 19.6 20.9 20.7 21.1 22.0 22.7 24.7
Bachelor’s degree or higher 30.4 31.1 31.5 31.8 32.4 32.6 33.4 35.2 35.4
White, non-Hispanic 40.4 41.8 41.9 42.7 44.5 44.0 45.2 46.1 46.8
Black, non-Hispanic 15.6 14.7 18.5 17.2 16.8 18.5 19.6 23.3 22.3
Hispanic 11.1 11.8 12.3 12.7 13.6 14.2 12.8 15.6 15.5
Mexican 8.2 9.0 8.2 8.7 9.0 10.4 9.4 11.1 12.0
Father’s highest education level
Less than high school 14.3 14.2 13.7 14.3 14.8 13.1 12.5 12.5 12.5
White, non-Hispanic 6.4 6.0 5.6 5.9 6.0 5.8 5.3 4.8 5.1
Black, non-Hispanic 8.2 11.0 7.6 8.3 12.5 7.7 9.0 11.3 8.7
Hispanic 40.0 38.6 36.9 38.4 37.6 34.4 32.6 34.0 32.9
Mexican 46.1 44.4 42.7 45.6 43.7 40.1 38.3 37.0 36.1
High school diploma or equivalent 28.2 27.6 27.8 27.8 26.7 26.7 27.1 27.1 25.0
White, non-Hispanic 27.1 25.7 25.6 26.2 24.5 24.4 24.6 24.6 22.9
Black, non-Hispanic 34.9 34.6 37.6 37.8 34.7 33.3 32.4 32.4 22.1
Hispanic 31.4 33.0 33.7 30.0 30.8 32.2 34.9 34.9 34.1
Mexican 32.2 33.6 33.6 29.4 31.1 33.4 35.4 35.4 35.5
Some college, including vocational/technical 23.8 24.4 24.3 24.4 23.9 24.9 25.3 25.3 26.1
White, non-Hispanic 25.9 26.7 26.9 26.8 25.6 26.7 27.4 27.4 27.8
Black, non-Hispanic 29.2 28.9 30.4 32.8 28.9 30.5 33.6 33.6 37.1
Hispanic 17.5 18.0 17.4 17.7 19.3 19.9 19.3 19.3 19.1
Mexican 14.1 14.7 14.8 14.8 17.5 18.0 17.3 17.3 18.8
Bachelor’s degree or higher 33.8 33.9 34.2 33.5 34.6 35.2 35.1 35.1 36.4
White, non-Hispanic 40.7 41.6 41.9 41.2 43.9 43.0 42.7 42.7 44.4
Black, non-Hispanic 27.7 25.5 24.4 21.0 23.9 28.5 25.0 25.0 29.6
Hispanic 11.1 10.4 12.1 14.0 12.3 13.6 13.3 13.3 12.7
Mexican 7.6 7.2 8.9 10.3 7.8 8.5 9.1 9.1 8.7
Note: Information on parents’ highest education level is available only for those parents who live in the same household with their child. Percentages may not add to 100.0 due to rounding.

Source: Child Trends analysis of Current Population Survey (CPS) March Supplement.

Endnotes


[i]Throughout this report, non-Hispanic black and non-Hispanic white are referred to simply as black and white, respectively.


[1]
Chandler, K., Nord, C., Lennon, J., & Liu, B. (1999). Statistics in
brief: Home literacy activities & signs of children’s emerging literacy,
1993 and 1999
. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

[2]
O’Sullivan, C. Y., Lauko, M. A., Grigg, W. S., Qian, J., & Zhang, J.
(2003). The nation’s report card: Science 2000 [Electronic Version]. Retrieved
23 November 2009 from http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/main2000/2003453.pdf.

[3]Child Trends Databank. (2015). Daily Cigarette Use. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=daily-cigarette-use; Child Trends Databank. (2015). Binge Drinking. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=binge-drinking; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2008). Health, United States, 2008: With special feature on the health of young adults [Electronic Version] from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus08.pdf.

[4]Hair,
E., McPhee, C., Martin, L. T., Milot, A., & Halle, T. (2007). Parents
Matter: Parental Education, Parenting and Child Well-Being. Paper presented at
the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD). April 1, 2007.

Halle, T., Forry, N., Hair, E., Perper, K.,
Wandner, L., Wessel, J., & Vick, J. (2009). Disparities in early learning
and development: Lessons from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study – Birth
Cohort (ECLS-B). Washington, DC: Child Trends.

[5]
Child Trends Databank. (2015). Volunteering. Available at
https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=volunteering

[6]
Nord, C., & West, J. (2001). Fathers’ and mothers’ involvement in their
children’s schools by family type and resident status
. Washington, DC: U.S.
Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.; Colemen, J.
S. (1988). Social capital in the creation of human capital. American Journal
of Sociology, 94
, 995-1120.

[7]Hispanics may be of any race. Estimates for whites and blacks in this report do not include Hispanics.

 

Suggested Citation:

Child Trends Databank. (2015). Parental education. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=parental-education

 

Last updated: December 2015

 

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