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Parent’s Educational Influence

Parents Influence the Educational Outcomes of their Children

Whether parents attended college has a great deal to say about whether their children attend college.

Analysis of data taken from recent US census surveys* show that higher educational opportunity is strongly associated with parental educational attainment.

Parents, possibly the greatest predictor of whether your child goes to college, is you.

Trends and patterns vary according to factors such as gender, race, ethnicity, and income. However, the strong relationship between parents’ own educational ambitions and goals and the educational achievement of their kids has been widely studied.

“These studies show that students are at a distinct disadvantage,” according to a study commissioned by the National Center for Education Statistics**, when it comes to postsecondary access if their parents did not attend college.influence_chart.jpg

Parents who model education attainment for their child are more likely to have a child who seeks higher education immediately after high school.

Decades of research suggest that parents educational attainment is the “floor” for the children’s attainment. “That is, if parents are high school graduates, the children will be at least high school graduates; if parents attended college, the children will at least attend college.” ***

Moreover, parents who have a college degree are more likely to have a child who stays in college and attains a degree.


Only about 30 percent of 18 to 24 year olds whose parents did not graduate from high school reach college, compared to about 85 percent of 18 to 24 year olds where the householder has a bachelor’s degree or more from college.

* Day, Jennifer C., and Curry, Andrea E. (June 1998). School Enrollment-Social and Economic Characteristics of Students: October 1996 (Update). U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, P20-500. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

** Students Whose Parents Did Not Go to College: Postsecondary Access, Persistence, and Attainment Susan P. Choy, MPR Associates, Inc National Center for Education Statistics

*** Center for Demography and Ecology University of Wisconsin-Madison The Effects of Parent’s Unrealized Educational Aspirations on Children’s Educational Outcomes

Jennifer Sheridan

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