Biggest influence on a child’s education may be the mother’s education

It’s long been known that a mother’s education status has a sizable influence on her children’s academic lives. But a report released Wednesday enumerates many of the ways a mother’s education plays out in the next generation’s economic, social and health outcomes as well.

Here are some of the disparities for the one in eight children in the U.S. who are born to a mother with no high school diploma, compared to the one in three whose mothers have a college diploma.

● 84 percent live in low-income families, compared to 13 percent

● 48 percent have a mother who is not securely employed, compared to 11 percent

● 16 percent read proficiently in the eighth grade, compared to 49 percent

● 40 percent do not graduate on time, compared to 2 percent

● 27 percent are obese, compared to 13 percent

The results of the report were released at a panel discussion Wednesday to promote so-called dual-generation policies that seek to educate and train parents alongside their children.

Social programs tend to focus on parents, or children, but not both, said Donald J. Hernandez, a sociologist at Hunter College and co-author of the report.

The panelists discussed how paid family leave, early childhood education, high school recovery programs, workforce training and other family support systems could work together to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.

Gail Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, said that higher education should be part of the discussion. She said more than half of community college students have children and two-thirds work full time, yet “we never think about child care as a basic function of college.”

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Michael Alison Chandler writes about schools and families in Northern Virginia.
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