RISK: Low Maternal Education

The level of education that a mother reaches is one of many interrelated social determinants that predict a child’s health, development, and school success. Failure to earn a high school diploma is associated with higher rates of unemployment and lower compensation, including pay and benefits, which increases the likelihood of children growing up in poverty. Nationally, in 2014, the median annual earning of school dropouts was $9,360 less than adults with a high school degree, which would result in a gap of over $420,000 across a 45 year career. Compared to high school graduates, those with a college degree earned an additional $27,000, which would be a $1.6 million dollars total difference over a career. Financial strains can negatively affect a mother’s stress levels, mental health, and parenting – all of which are associated with behavior problems and poor achievement in preschoolers.

Low maternal education is associated with poorer nutrition, less cognitive stimulation in the home environment, and less knowledge of and access to early intervention services compared to more educated mothers.29 These factors in the early home environment contribute substantially to later school performance. For example, children born to mothers who did not complete high school have lower scores on cognitive assessments, lower school achievement, and are more likely to experience early grade retention than children born to more educated mothers.

Number and Percentage of Births to Mothers with <12 Years of Education, Virginia,
2005-2014

SOURCE: Virginia Resident Live Birth Certificate Data compiled by the Office of Family Health Services, Virginia Department of Health.





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