Pew Report: Financial Gap Between American Families Impacting Parenting

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Class Differences in Child-Rearing Are on the Rise.

Well-off families are ruled by calendars, with children enrolled in ballet, soccer and after-school programs, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. One-third of parents with an annual income below $30,000 reported that their neighborhood was “fair” or “poor,” while only 42% said their neighborhood was an “excellent” place to raise kids. But low-income parents, who have lots of other things to worry about, the study suggests, aren’t buying it: just one in 12 says their kids’ lives are too hectic. They are more likely to grow up in neighborhoods that their parents say aren’t great for raising children, and their parents worry about them getting shot, beaten up or in trouble with the law.

They found that the more money parents made, the more likely their kids were to participate in sports, religious instruction or a youth group, music, dance or art lessons. Different upbringings set children on different paths and can deepen socioeconomic divisions, especially because education is strongly linked to earnings. “Early-childhood experiences can be very consequential for children’s long-term social, emotional and cognitive development,” said Sean Reardon, professor of poverty and inequality in education at Stanford University. “And because those influence educational success and later earnings, early-childhood experiences cast a lifelong shadow.” The cycle continues: Poorer parents have less time and fewer resources to invest in their children, which leaves children less prepared for school and work, which leads to lower earnings. Almost half of parents making below $30,000 said they were worried their kids could eventually get shot; that was a concern for barely more than a fifth of parents in the wealthier bracket.

U.S. parents want similar things for their children, the Pew report and past research has found: for them to be healthy and happy, honest and ethical, caring and compassionate. There is no best parenting style or philosophy, researchers say, and across income groups, 92 percent of parents say they are doing a good job at raising their children.

Middle-class and higher-income parents see their children as projects in need of careful cultivation, says Annette Lareau, a University of Pennsylvania sociologist whose groundbreaking research on the topic was published in her book “Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race and Family Life.” They try to develop their skills through close supervision and organized activities, and teach children to question authority figures and navigate elite institutions. And recent school shootings and terrorism threats have brought all parents closer to the grim realization that their child’s school might be targeted, Parker said.

But concerns about day-to-day violence are more pronounced for parents with lower incomes, she said — and for parents who say their neighborhood could be a better place for kids. And despite their disagreements over how much helicopter parenting is appropriate, an equal amount of low-income and high-income parents participated in PTA events, helped with class trips or projects, and met with teachers. The parents most likely to pat themselves on the back were millennials, who are between 18-34 years old. 57% of millennial moms and 43% of millennial dads called themselves “good” parents—placing six and four points, respectively, above average evaluations across generations.

Extracurricular activities epitomize the differences in child rearing in the Pew survey, which was of a nationally representative sample of 1,807 parents. Discipline techniques vary by education level: 8 percent of those with a postgraduate degree say they often spank their children, compared with 22 percent of those with a high-school degree or less. Interestingly, parents’ attitudes toward education do not seem to reflect their own educational background as much as a belief in the importance of education for upward mobility. But half of poor parents say it is extremely important to them that their children earn a college degree, compared with 39 percent of wealthier parents.

While bullying is parents’ greatest concern over all, nearly half of low-income parents worry that their child will get shot, compared with one-fifth of high-income parents. The achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is 30 percent to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than those born 25 years earlier, according to Mr.

In the past decade, even as income inequality has grown, some of the socioeconomic differences in parenting, like reading to children and going to libraries, have narrowed, Mr.

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