UH Moment: "Parental Education"

We know how an individual benefits by getting an education, but is there an additional benefit to his or her children.  Learn how one University of Houston professor examines the impact of going back to school.

There are many studies that link a parent's education to a variety of outcomes in their children, outcomes that can mean the difference between advantage and disadvantage. A University of Houston researcher is examining the impact on a child when Mom goes back to school.  

"I'm looking at women who go back to school after having children, who did not have a bachelor degree," said Jennifer March Augustine, an assistant professor of sociology. "They're looking to finish their high school diploma, pursue an associate or vocational training or get a bachelor's degree."

Funded by a two-year National Institutes of Health grant, Augustine is looking at intergenerational data that examines more than 10,000 women and children.  She expects to find a positive impact on children in the long term—school readiness, better cognitive and behavioral skill, healthier—but negative in the short term.

"Returning to school after an extending time in the labor market could be disruptive to the home life, to household routines, and lead to new stressors and financial strains," she said. "It's possible these will lead to short-term negative impacts on children, but we don't know."

Augustine says this research informs both education and health policies.  

"If we can come up with more creative ways to promote the health of the nation via education policies, then there's an opportunity to build bridges across these policy silos that could potentially improve both health and education with the same strategy."

Jennifer March Augustine is part of what's happening at the University of Houston.