Kindergarteners of Working Mothers Score Higher

Here’s another data point in the mommy wars. Kindergarten children of full-time and part-time working parents score higher in both math and reading than their peers with a stay-at-home parent. But children with only a single parent had lower average test scores than either two parent scenario. That’s according to the Digest of Education Statistics 2012 that was released on Dec. 31, 2013. (The data is in Table 135). I was surprised to see that not only were the kindergarten entry test scores in the fall stronger of the children with working parents, but also the Spring kindergarten test scores. For example, a kindergarten child with two working parents scored, on average, 37 points in the fall of 2010, two points more than a kindergarten with one working parent and one stay-at-home parent. Whether the second parent works full time or part time doesn’t matter. The scores are equally high. That two-point lead continued in the Spring of 2011, when children of two working parents scored 52 points versus 50 points. The math gap was identical. Children with two working parents scored two points higher in both the fall and the spring than children with a stay-at-home parent.

What to make of this? I suspect the socio-economic profile of the stay-at-home mom has changed a lot in the past 20 years and that stay-at-home mothers might be, on average, less educated and less ambitious than their working counterparts. Perhaps the highly educated stay-at-home mother of the 1980s and 1990s is more likely to be a part-time worker today.

[Cross-posted at The Hechinger Report]

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Jill Barshay

Jill Barshay is the founding editor and writer of Education By The Numbers, The Hechinger Report's blog about education data.