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American Enterprise Institute: Dad and the diploma: The difference fathers make for college graduati

aei logo This brief focuses on one particular dimension of parental investments: paternal involvement in high school. Young adults who as teens had involved fathers are significantly more likely to graduate from college.


 A US Department of Education study found that among children living with both biological parents, those with highly involved fathers were 42 percent more likely to earn As and 33 percent less likely to be held back a year in school than children whose dads had low levels of involvement.

Using maternal education as a proxy for socioeconomic status, indicates that young adults from less-educated homes are markedly less likely to acquire a college degree.

Family scholars from sociologist Sara McLanahan to psychologist Ross Parke have long observed that fathers typically play an important role in advancing the welfare of their children.

Focusing on the impact of family structure, McLanahan has found that, compared to children from single-parent homes, children who live with both their mother and father have significantly lower rates of nonmarital childbearing and incarceration and higher rates of high school and college graduation.

Examining the extent and style of paternal involvement, Parke notes, for instance, that engaged fathers play an important role in “helping sons and daughters achieve independent and distinct identities” and that this independence often translates into educational and occupational success.

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American Enterprise Institute

1150 Seventeenth Street, NW 
Washington, DC , 20036
Telephone: 202.862.5800
Fax: 202.862.7177 


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