As part of the Aspen Institute event series "Building the Economy We Want: Aspen Asks What Will it Take?" featured discussants considering what is needed to build a better economy for women.Learn more
Education, from early childhood through postsecondary, is a core component of two-generation approaches. There is a strong correlation between low levels of educational attainment and poverty. Only 10 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree are poor. Yet more than 30 percent of those with a high school diploma or less are poor. The poverty rate does not decrease until people have at least some education beyond high school. In addition, there is a strong link between maternal education and outcomes for children, particularly school readiness for kindergartners. There is also some evidence that parent engagement can further enhance positive outcomes.
Education that includes skill development linked to high-demand jobs with opportunities for advancement is key. At the same time, the return on investment for early childhood education for at-risk children is significant over a lifetime.
Postsecondary education is increasingly important to obtain a job that offers family-supporting wages, but students who are also parents face significant challenges to college completion. Nearly a quarter of all college students today are parents, and 13 percent of all college students are single parents. Programs that provide education and skills training to adults often view children as a barrier to participation; a better model would engage whole families.
Meanwhile, programs focused on children often see parents merely as facilitators of their children’s education and don’t offer opportunities for parents to increase their own education attainment and marketable job skills.