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Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Minorities
NCES 2010-015
July 2010

Indicator 5. Parental Education

Research has shown a link between parental education levels and child outcomes such as educational experience, attainment, and academic achievement. For example, there was a positive association between children with highly educated mothers and their rates of participation in early childhood education programs and home literacy activities (U.S. Department of Education 2009, indicators 2 and 3). In addition, children with more highly educated parents earned higher average reading and mathematics scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) than did children with less-educated parents (U.S. Department of Education 2009, indicators 12 and 13). Although the overall level of educational attainment, in terms of the percentage of students earning a college degree, increased between 1996 and 2008 for each racial/ethnic group (see indicator 27), there were differences across these groups. 

Generally, the percentages of Asian and White children who had parents with at least a bachelor's degree were higher than the percentages of children of other races/ethnicities who had parents with at least a bachelor's degree in 2008. In addition, the percentage of Asian children whose mothers held at least a bachelor's degree (51 percent) was higher than the corresponding percentage for White children (36 percent). These two percentages were higher than the percentages of Black (17 percent), Hispanic (11 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native (16 percent) children who had mothers with at least a bachelor's degree. In addition, the percentage of Asian children with mothers who had at least a bachelor's degree was higher than the percentages of Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander children (25 percent) and children of two or more races (31 percent) whose mothers had similar educational attainment.6 A higher percentage of children of two more races than Black or Hispanic children had a mother who had at least a bachelor's degree, and a higher percentage of Black children than Hispanic children had mothers who had at least a bachelor's degree. The same patterns held true for the percentages of children who had fathers with at least a bachelor's degree.

Differences also were apparent across races/ethnicities in the lower level of parental education in 2008. Among Hispanic children, 39 percent had mothers whose highest level of education was less than high school completion. This percentage was higher than the percentages for Whites (5 percent), Blacks (13 percent), Asians (15 percent), Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders (9 percent), American Indians/Alaska Natives (19 percent), and children of two or more races (6 percent). Similarly, the percentage of Hispanic children with fathers whose highest level of education was less than high school completion (41 percent) was higher than the respective percentages for Whites (6 percent), Blacks (11 percent), Asians (11 percent), Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders (2 percent), American Indians/Alaska Natives (14 percent), and children of two or more races (5 percent).

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6 Although there appear to be differences between the percentages of Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander children with a parent who had at least a bachelor's degree and children of other races/ethnicities, only the differences between the percentage of Asian children and the percentage of Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander children with a parent who had at least a bachelor's degree were statistically significant. 


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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education