Income, Education, Race’s Impact On Parenting: PEW’s New Survey Confirms What We Already Suspect

pew parenting survey

The PEW Research Center released its 2015 Parenting in America survey this week which confirmed a lot of generalities and notions many of us probably have had about parenting, and how income, education, and sometimes race,  impact parenting choices, styles and fears.

The survey was conducted between September 15 and Oct. 13, 2015, among 1,807 U.S. parents with children younger than 18 and the findings yielded unsurprising results.

Here’s how it broke down:

Richer kids Have More Access to Enrichment Activities compared to Children in Lower-Income Households

No surprise, the survey found that higher income families children had access to more extracurricular activities and sports.

A little over half (52%) of families with incomes less than $30,000 said they struggle to find affordable, high-quality after-school activities and programs for their children, compared to those with incomes of $75,000 or higher (29%).

Consequently, more higher-income parents stated that their “children are engaged in sports or organizations such as the scouts or take lessons in music, dance or art. ” About 84% of richer parents answered that their children have “participated in sports in the 12 months prior to the survey; this compares with 59% among lower-income parents.”

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Parents from Low-Income Are More Fearful for the Safety of their Children

Lower income parents rated their neighborhoods as less safe. A third of parents who earn less than $30,000 rated their neighborhood as “fair” or a “poor” place to raise kids, compared to just 7% of parents who earn more than $75,000. Those richer parents gave their neighborhoods an “excellent” or “very good” rating (78% v 42%).

What worried parents from the lower-income brackets most was a fear that their children would be a victim of violence with  59% fearing their child may be kidnapped or attacked (55%). Also,  47% of those earning less than $30,000 worried that their kids may be shot at some point. That rate is double that of higher-income parents.

Lower-Income Feared their Children Might Get Pregnant or In Trouble with the Law At Some Point

Half of lower-income parents worried that their daughter might become pregnant as a teenager compared to just 43% of higher-income parents. By a stark margin of 2-to-1, more lower-income parents compared to higher-income ones (40% v 21%) worried that their kids will get in trouble with the law at some point.

Concerns about teenage pregnancy and legal trouble are also more prevalent among lower-income parents. Half of lower-income parents worry that their child or one of their children will get pregnant or get a girl pregnant as a teenager, compared with 43% of higher-income parents. And, by a margin of 2-to-1, more lower-income than higher-income parents (40% vs. 21%) say they worry that their children will get in trouble with the law at some point.


Living in a 2-Parent Household Made a Difference For Opportunities and Black Children in Single-Family Households Have Less Resources

In 2014, 31% of kids living in single-parent households lived below the poverty-line compared to only 1 in 10 or 21% of kids in  two cohabiting parents homes. Over half of children in two-parent households had incomes at 200% or up that were above the poverty line compared to just 21% of those in single-family homes.

And has been the trend recently, more Black children live in single-parent household in America than any other single race. Only 31% of Black children lived with two married parents while 54% lived in single-parent homes.  Meanwhile, 72% of White, 82% of Asian-American and 55% of Hispanic children lived with two married parents.

Spanking isn’t Popular for Discipline; But Education and Race Impacted Use of Spanking for Discipline

Only 4% of parents surveyed said they use spankings as a regular form or punishment. “The most popular is explaining why a child’s behavior is inappropriate: three-quarters say they do this often,” the Center reported.  “About four-in-ten (43%) say they frequently take away privileges, such as time with friends or use of TV or other electronic devices, and a roughly equal share say they give a “timeout” (41% of parents with children younger than 6) as a form of discipline, while about one-in-five (22%) say they often resort to raising their voice or yelling.”

Only 1 in 6 parents say they spank their children as a regular form of discipline. When it comes to using spanking as a discipline, generally, many parents across education, economic and racial groups describe using it at some point, though parents with just a high school education and black parents use it more.  Black parents (32%) are more likely than white (14%) and Hispanic (19%) parents to say they sometimes spank their children and are far less likely to say they never resort to spanking (31% vs. 55% and 58%, respectively), the Center reported.

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Parent Involvement Matter More for Black and Hispanic Parents

Despite what seems like a lot of negative associated with Black parents, they (and Hispanic parents) are more likely than White parents to believe that a parent can never be too involved with their children’s lives.

Even after controlling for educational attainment, 75% of Black and 67% of Hispanic parents said a parent can never be too involved win a child’s education compared to less than half of white parents (47%)



Notwithstanding all of these differences, irrespective of income or race, most parents felt they were doing a good job, though Millennials, generally, more than other generation groups and moms more than dads, rated their jobs as parents high.  PEW reported:

Nearly identical shares of parents with incomes of $75,000 or higher (46%), $30,000 to $74,999 (44%) and less than $30,000 (46%) say they are doing a very good job as parents, and similar shares say they are doing a good job.

Though parental scorecards don’t differ by income, they do vary across other demographic divides, such as gender and generation. Among all parents, more mothers than fathers say they are doing a very good job raising their children (51% vs. 39%), and Millennial mothers are particularly inclined to rate themselves positively. Nearly six-in-ten (57%) moms ages 18 to 34 say they are doing a very good job as a parent, a higher share than Millennial dads (43%) or any other generational group.

Interesting findings. What are your thoughts about any of these stats?

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