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3. Education Attainment for Women Age 16 and Over with Young Children

A mother’s educational level plays a key role in her child’s future achievement. National research has consistently shown a strong relationship between maternal education level and child well-being, including social-emotional development and academic performance. Studies also show that when a mother increases her educational level, it has a positive effect on her children. Higher maternal education levels bring higher earnings and increases family well-being. Less educated mothers are more likely to struggle meeting their family’s basic needs, leading to fewer resources and increased family stress.

What Can the Data Tell Us?

Reviewing the U.S. Census data on the percentage of women who are graduating with a high school diploma and those who have higher levels of education helps in understanding how young children and their families are doing.  National data (Table 7) shows 12.4% of mothers with young children have less than a high school diploma and 21.7% have only a high school diploma.  Combined, 34.1% of all mothers with young children have a high school diploma or less.  This means that young children in these households are more likely to have additional barriers that negatively impact their healthy development.  Understanding the data helps to identify opportunities to target resources that support mothers with young children to pursue higher education. 

Table 7. Women age 18 and over with children ages 0-5 by educational attainment, U.S., 2011-2013

Educational Attainment

Number

Percentage

Less Than High School Diploma

1,864,382

12.4%

High School Diploma

3,272,692

21.7%

Some College

5,012,745

33.3%

Bachelor's Degree

3,110,878

20.7%

Master's Degree

1,359,090

9.0%

Professional/Doctorate Degree

439,289

2.9%

Total

15,059,076

Source:  U.S. Census Bureau, Public Use Microdata Sample, 2011-2013. These data can be developed for any state.

 

African American and Hispanic parents (ages 18-64) are significantly less likely to have an associates degree than white and non-Hispanic adults (Table 8). Their employment and career options are likely to offer limited earnings potential. They also tend to have less confidence in their children's ability to advance through education. While Table 8 shows data related to completing an associate degree, there is also comparative data for educational levels tracked by the Census (less than high school, high school or a GED, some college, associate degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and professional degree or doctorate).

Table 8.  Percent of adults age 18-64 with an associate degree or higher, U.S. and states, 2011-2013

Table 9 shows national data on educational attainment broken down by race/ethnicity. States can also obtain similar data from the U.S. Census. Local data are useful to better understand racial/ethnic inequities related to income and access to resources.

Years of School Completed

All Races

Non-Hispanic White

African American

Asian

Hispanic
(of any race)

Total

210,910,615
100%

141,478,073
100.0

24,615,101
100.0

11,043,022
100.0

29,673,441
100.0

Less than high school

28,268, 226
13.4%

11,778,616
8.3%

4,020,049
16.3%

1,528,152
13.8%

10,478,733
35.3%

High school graduate, GED

103,169,634
48.9%

70,715,610
50.0%

13,895,220
56.4%

3,077,535
27.9%

13,316,742
44.9%

Associate's degree

17,006,372
8.1%

12,189,729
8.6%

1,947,114
7.9%

770,742
7.0%

1,727,244
5.8

Bachelor's degree, Some graduate

38,881,973
18.4%

29,057,475
20.5%

3,017,884
12.3%

3,282,209
29.7%

2,831,186
9.5%

Graduate or Professional degree

23,584,410
11.2%

17,736,643
12.5%

1,734,834
7.0%

2,384,384
21.6%

1,319,536
4.4%

Source:  U.S. Census, American Community Survey 2013