Mothers’ education predicts children’s academic achievement — and the pattern is set by the age of three, writes University of Chicago economist James Heckman.
Children of mothers with less than a high school education score about half a standard deviation below the mean by the time they’re three, according to Heckman’s data. As they go through school, they do slightly worse compared to children of educated mothers. (Researchers don’t track fathers’ education because so many children are growing up without their fathers.)
Gaps in test scores classified by social and economic status of the family emerge at early ages, before schooling starts, and they persist. Similar gaps emerge and persist in indices of soft skills classified by social and economic status. Again, schooling does little to widen or narrow these gaps.
John Goodman’s Health Policy Blog has the depressing chart.
Of course, disadvantaged children usually attend struggling schools (or schools that have stopped struggling). It’s possible to believe that high-quality schooling would make a difference for the children of uneducated parents.