Mothers’ Gains in Post-Secondary Education and Children’s Development

It has been suggested that programs for young low-income children should help their mothers obtain post-secondary education (PSE); however, it is not known how mothers’ return to school would affect children. Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth of 1979 (NLSY79), we will explore the impact of mothers’ entry into PSE during children’s first 5 years on children’s academic and socioemotional outcomes, differentiating between short- and long-term effects. We will also identify the mechanisms that link gains in mothers’ PSE to children’s outcomes; determine whether the effects of low-income mothers’ gains in PSE depend on whether they earn a credential; examine the relative value of a mother’s entry into PSE during early versus middle childhood; and test whether the presence of a co-resident father moderates the impact of maternal PSE on children. Findings will not only speak to the value of intervening in low-income children’s lives through promoting maternal PSE, but also inform practical decisions about the shape that such interventions should take.

Funding Source: NICHD.

Contact: Margo Gardner, Ph.D.