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Modern Parenthood

Moms are getting schooled: Record amount of mothers college educated, Pew says

A Pew Research Center study, out today, says a record amount of moms are college educated. The more educated the mother, the better off their child is going to be. 

By Lisa SuhayGuest Blogger / May 10, 2013

More moms are getting a college education than ever before, a Pew Research Center study says. In this file photo taken Feb. 10, 2008, Sheena Payne of Orlando poses with her daughter, Laila. Ms. Payne put her education on hold when her daughter was born, but had just won a scholarship for an online college degree through Project Working Mom.

Courtesy of Sheena Payne/American InterContinental University


A new study of the impact of education on child bearing released today, “Record Share of New Mothers are College Educated” by the Pew Research Center, indicates that educating women beyond high school improves the health, social, and educational wellbeing of their kids, while the poorly educated get more children, both out of wedlock and much sooner.

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Lisa Suhay, who has four sons at home in Norfolk, Va., is a children’s book author and founder of the Norfolk (Va.) Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE) , a nonprofit organization serving at-risk youth via mentoring and teaching the game of chess for critical thinking and life strategies.

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The study confirms the more education a mom has, the better off her children will be in the short and long term by virtue of the fact that among all women with infants in 2011, the largest share, 54 percent, were married with at least some college education. This was compared to only 17 percent in 1960, according to Pew.

That increase appears to have resulted in women who wait to have kids and get married before becoming mothers. The children resulting from those more educated unions are healthier, full-term babies brought into more economically sound households, Pew researchers discovered.

“The current pattern of fertility and marital status is largely due to the close link between marriage and educational attainment," the report says. "Women with college experience are more likely to be married than their less educated counterparts. 

“On average, a mother with more education is more likely to deliver a baby at term, and more likely to have a baby with a healthy birth weight. As they grow up, children with more educated mothers tend to have better cognitive skills and higher academic achievement than others. It is difficult to determine whether maternal education is causing some of these outcomes, or if it is serving as a proxy for some other causal factor (for example, economic well-being). What is irrefutable, though, is that on average the more education a woman has, the better off her children will be.”

However, the overall rise in educational levels has not equated to a decline in unwed pregnancies overall according to a survey released last week by the US Census Bureau which stated, “as of 2011, 62 percent of women age 20 to 24 who gave birth in the previous 12 months were unmarried. This compares with 17 percent among women age 35 to 39.”

The information comes from Social and Economic Characteristics of Currently Unmarried Women with a Recent Birth: 2011, an American Community Survey report. According to the Census, in 2011, 4.1 million women reported that they had given birth in the past year. Of these women, 36 percent were unmarried at the time of the survey, an increase from 2005 when an estimated 31 percent of recent births were to unmarried women (2005 was the earliest year for which statistics are available from the American Community Survey).


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