New Pew Research: Parents are Highly Influential in Children’s Educational and Economic Outcomes

We all work hard to raise our kids, making sure they do their homework and succeed in school. But the natural resting state of most parents seems to be a nagging suspicion that all of that hard work doesn’t really matter.

We often wonder, “Am I really making any meaningful difference in my child’s life?”

Well, new findings from the Pew Research Center demonstrate just how powerful parental influence is. Even your own educational achievement is very influential. Analyzing new data from the Federal Reserve Board shows that simply having parents who are college graduates makes a substantial difference in educational and economic outcomes for young adults.

Pew found that young adults who have at least one college educated parent are “far more likely to complete college” compared with peers from non-college educated homes. The proportions between the two groups are profound as 70% of adults with at least one college-educated parent have earned at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to only 26% who have no college educated parents. Whether or not both parents have college degrees also makes a distinct difference, as 82% of young adults with two college-grad parents have completed their four-year degree in contrast to only 60% who have only one parent who has.

Of course, having a college education substantially boosts our children’s economic prospects. But our own college education also boosts their earning power over their college educated peers who come from parents with no such education.

Pew explains that today’s college grads who come from homes with a college-educated parent tend to enjoy “substantially higher incomes and more wealth than those who are the first generation in their family to graduate from college.”  Specifically, Pew found that the median income itself for “households headed by a first-generation college graduate is substantially lower than the income for households headed by a second-generation graduate.” The actual earning differentials are stark at $99,600 vs. $135,800 annually.

The same goes for general savings and wealth accumulation. Those who are the first in their family to earn a bachelor’s degree have an average household wealth of only $152,000 compared to an average of $244,500 for someone who holds the same degree, but has at least one parent who graduated from college.

Pew also explains that this pattern is consistent across race and sex difference. Parental higher education is also positively linked to their children being able to be accepted by and attend more selective colleges or universities. And not surprisingly, students with parents who are college grads are also much less likely to be racking up large debts in order the obtain their education.

So yes, there is indeed a connection between your commitment to education as a parent and the successes and fortunes of your children. Our influence as parents does indeed matter, even when we are not even actually doing anything but simply being who we are.

Photo from Shutterstock

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