NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Incarcerated Parents Risk Their Children's Education

March 10, 2015

America is one of the leading nations in incarcerated citizens per capita. Increasingly, research has shown that the incarceration of a child's parent can have the same effect on their grades, social activities and physical well-being as a divorce or death of a parent.

Important facts to consider regarding these at-risk youth:

  • 2.7 million students have at least one parent who is in jail or prison. Of these 2.7 million, 900,000 will reach adulthood before their parent finishes their sentences.
  • 45 percent of children of incarcerated adults are black, 28 percent white and 21 percent Hispanic.
  • Less than 2 percent of children with incarcerated mothers graduate from college.

In these special cases, what studies have found to be most vital are teachers, who seem to fill the void of the parent as protective and stable figures. Ironically, the perception a teacher holds of a student is one of the leading indicators of whether a child will repeat a grade or not.

Teachers are the last line of defense against early-onset criminal activity in youth. They need to be able to identify at-risk youth and help reintegrate them into a positive, social and academic atmosphere. Failure could cause future harm to their students and the lives of others, continuing the cycle of violence for another generation.    

Source: Sarah D. Sparks, "Parents Incarceration Takes Toll on Children Studies Say," Education Week, February 24, 2015.


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