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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

What If Mom Went Back to School? A Mixed Methods Study of Effects and Experiences for Both Generations When Mothers Return to School
by Anderson, Theresa M., Ph.D., The George Washington University, 2020, 378; 27833265
Abstract (Summary)

Student-mothers are a substantial and growing share of US college students. In 2016, about 28% of undergraduate women had children, amounting to over 2.6 million student-mothers. I completed the first quantitative research on the long-term effects on parents and children when mothers reenroll in school, tracking each generation’s outcomes for up to two decades with national survey data. In this mixed-methods study, contemporary insights and policy recommendations come from qualitative interviews.

My research reveals a complex picture. On average, mothers who reenroll attain more educational credentials, work more, and earn more than similar mothers who do not reenroll. However, mothers who reenroll are less likely to be married, family income declines, and they experience some negative physical and mental health effects.

Mothers’ reenrollment relates to small, short-term gains in children’s vocabulary and reading scores, but also more behavioral problems that persist into early adulthood. In the long term, children of mothers who go back to school have better academic outcomes, but this does not manifest in earnings gains in their early careers. There is no effect on children’s probability of getting married, but children have some negative health impacts on average. Results vary somewhat by subgroup.

Policy and practice can help women and their families balance education, family, work, and personal responsibilities. This is particularly important for women of color, who are more likely to experience education disruptions and return to school later in life and who represent an ever-growing share of college students.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Barnow, Burt S.
Commitee: Newcomer, Kathryn E., Conger, Dylan
School: The George Washington University
Department: Public Policy & Administration
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI 81/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Public policy, Education Policy, Womens studies
Keywords: Mixed methods, Mothers, Nontraditional college students, School reenrollment, Student-parents, Two-generation
Publication Number: 27833265
ISBN: 9798645447588
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