Father Involvement and Socioeconomic Disparities in Child Academic Outcomes

Daniel P. Miller , Boston University
Margaret Thomas
Maureen Waller, Cornell University
Lenna Nepomnyaschy, Rutgers University
Allison Dwyer Emory, Rutgers University

Based on growing evidence on the benefits of father involvement for low-SES children, this study used nationally representative data to assess whether father involvement is associated with reductions in SES-based disparities in children’s reading, mathematics, and grade retention. We examined multiple measures of involvement and conducted separate analyses for resident and nonresident fathers. Regression results indicate that father residence and resident father school involvement (but not an index of nonresident father involvement) were positively associated with child academic outcomes, with more pronounced benefits for low-SES children for some outcomes. Simulations that explored the hypothetical benefit of increasing low-SES fathers’ involvement (rate of residence and biological father school involvement) to a level typical of the highest-SES fathers resulted in reductions in disparities, particularly for rates of grade retention. This study makes an important contribution in its novel consideration of the role of fathers in reducing inequality between low- and high-SES children.

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 Presented in Session 4. Marriage, Family, Households, & Unions