Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Habecker, Patrick N., "Sins of our Fathers (and Mothers): Impact of Parental Incarceration upon Education Outcomes" (2013).


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Sociology, Under the Supervision of Professor Lisa A. Kort-Butler. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Patrick N. Habecker


In 2007, it was estimated that 2.3% of all children in the U.S. under the age of 18 had a parent currently in prison or jail (Glaze and Maruschak 2008). A growing body of research on the experiences of children who have had a parent to go prison or jail has exposed a number of detrimental outcomes associated with parental incarceration, including lower education outcomes (Foster and Hagan 2007), higher risk of mental health problems (Farrington et al. 2001), and increased contact with the criminal justice system later in life (Huebner and Gustafson 2007). This study used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) to extend the existing literature on parental incarceration and high school completion and overall educational attainment. This study focused on examining differences in how these educational experiences change when a father is incarcerated compared to a mother, and how old the child was when their parent was first incarcerated. This study finds that parental incarceration lowers the odds of a child completing high school by 50%, and lowers their overall educational attainment by 0.33 standard deviations. Educational attainment is further decreased when a mother is incarcerated compared to a father. For both education outcomes sons fare worse than daughters. The effects of parental incarceration upon education outcomes are most severe when the child is between the ages of 11 to 14 when their parent was first incarcerated.

Advisor: Lisa A. Kort-Butler