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Disaggregate: Parental education level


Highest level of education achieved by either parent

Why it matters

Parents’ education levels are strongly associated with educational outcomes, including grades, graduation, and students’ aspirations for their own achievement. Individuals who have at least one parent with a bachelor’s degree have higher rates of bachelor’s degree attainment, higher median household income, and higher median wealth. Higher levels of parental education are also associated with intergenerational wealth and therefore greater economic security.

What to know about measurement

E-W systems should collect consistent information on the educational attainment of both parents—for example, by adopting the following categories used in the American Community Survey (ACS): no schooling completed; nursery school; grades 1 through 11; 12th grade—no diploma; regular high school diploma; general equivalency diploma (GED) or alternative credential; some college credit but less than one year of college; one or more years of college credit, no degree; associate’s degree; bachelor’s degree; master’s degree; professional degree beyond bachelor’s degree; doctorate degree. As a simpler alternative, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) uses four categories to ask about the level of schooling completed by each parent: middle school/junior high; high school; college or beyond; and other or unknown. These data can be used to determine whether a student is a first-generation college student while also allowing for further disaggregation if needed.

Source frameworks

This disaggregate appeared in six source frameworks reviewed for this report, such as the National School Readiness Indicators Initiative and the California Cradle-to-Career Data System.


The framework's recommendations are based on syntheses of existing research. Please see the framework report for a list of works cited.

This website was funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.