Parental incarceration and children’s educational aspirations


Shaw, Unique & Swisher, Raymond (2010). Parental incarceration and children's educational aspirations. 2010 Add Health Users Conference. Bethesda, MD: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carolina Population Center.


The recent literature has increased its focus on children of prisoners. Few studies have examined how it impacts children’s educational values. This study explores the implications of parental incarceration for children’s educational aspirations. Estimates suggest that men who have not attended college have increased risks of imprisonment and that the cumulative risk of imprisonment is 3 to 4 times greater for high school dropouts than for high school graduates (Pettit and Western 2004). Research on educational outcomes has shown that one of the most consistent predictors of children’s educational attainment is their parent’s level of educational attainment (Spera et al. 2008). This research focuses on respondents from Wave IV of Add Health, who report having a parent in prison for any length of time. Using educational expectations and desired level of education variables, I hypothesize that children of incarcerated parents will have lower levels of educational aspirations. Despite the reality that many people see education as a source of mobility, many lack the resources to obtain desired levels of education. Considering that incarceration is highly stratified by race and education, this study will analyze potential differences across racial and ethnic subgroups.




Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

2010 Add Health Users Conference


Shaw, Unique
Swisher, Raymond

Year Published



University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carolina Population Center

City of Publication

Bethesda, MD

Reference ID