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Teens from Single-Parent Homes May Get Fewer Years of Schooling

The Short of It

Do you think whether a teen lives in a house with one parent or two affects how well they do in school? A new study finds that teens raised in single parent homes receive fewer years of schooling and are less likely to attain a bachelor's degree than teens who spend their formative years in two-parent households.

The Lowdown

The study found that the education gap between single parent and two-parent households widened substantially between 1968 and 2009. That gap aligned with the growth in single-parent homes in the United States. In 1965, a report was published that found 51 percent of low-income children entering adolescence were living in single-parent households. By 1995, that number had jumped to 75 percent.

Using data from the U.S. Department of Labor's Panel Study of Income Dynamics, researchers tracked the education life cycle of families with teen-age children between 1968 and 1999. The number of years of school completed for all students increased over time, but teens from single-family homes still received fewer years of schooling.

"In other words, American children raised in single-parent homes appear to be at a greater disadvantage educationally than ever before," said Kathleen M. Ziol-Guest, Ph.D., a research associate professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and one of the study's authors.

The Upshot

When researchers adjusted their analyses to consider family income to see if it was responsible for the discrepancy, they found that income accounted for about half of the education disadvantage facing students from single-parent families.

Other factors considered were the mother's age, mother's education and number of siblings. However, the mother's education level was the most important factor associated with the number of years her child remained in school.

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