Attainment link to parents’ education


Children’s educational attainment – and that of their parents – are the key factors in predicting whether youngsters are likely to live in poverty when they are adults.

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that a father’s level of education has the greatest impact on a child’s likelihood of low educational attainment.

Analysis by the ONS shows that children are seven and a half times less likely to achieve at school if their father has a low level of education when compared with children with highly educated fathers.

A mother’s level of education has an impact on a child’s success at school too – but to a lesser degree. 

Children are three times more likely to have low educational outcomes if their mother has a low level of education.

The ONS report also reveals that people with a low level of educational attainment are almost five times as likely to be in poverty as those with a high level of education.

Other childhood factors that are “predictors of low educational attainment” include the employment status of parents and the number of adults and children living in the household.

The analysis states: “Compared with those whose father was employed in a managerial position when they were aged 14, those whose father was unemployed are around three times as likely to have a lower educational outcome.

“Similarly, the odds of low educational outcomes increase approximately threefold when the mother was unemployed, with a comparably sized increase in likelihood also evident where the mother was inactive.”

When it comes to household composition, growing up in a household where there is a single adult and in one with more than two children “significantly increases the likelihood of a low educational outcome”.

The research says that the odds of low educational attainment is more than one and a half times higher for those who grew up in a single adult household than those who lived in a household with two adults.

Growing up in a household where no-one works appears to have an influence on youngsters too. Those who lived in a workless household at the age of 14 are around one and a half times as likely to be in poverty as those brought up in a household where one adult was working.

Intergenerational Transmission of Disadvantage in the UK and EU can be downloaded at



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