Parenting While In College: Racial Disparities in Basic Needs Insecurity During the Pandemic

Parenting While In College: Racial Disparities in Basic Needs Insecurity During the Pandemic

February 2022

Roughly one-in-five college students provide primary care to at least one child while pursuing a higher education credential. Parenting students show very strong commitments to education and excel at higher rates than other students when placed on a level playing field. The economic and social returns on their education are particularly strong, accruing across generations.

Parenting students’ success, or suffering, has both immediate and long-lasting impacts on families and our nation’s social and economic health. Current programs intended to support parenting students do not reach enough of them. Many policies hinder their progress toward credentials. Policymakers and institutional leaders must acknowledge parenting students, reform policies that deter their success, and promote support to meet their basic needs.

This brief reveals four untold lessons affecting parenting students, drawing on a nationwide survey of college students fielded fall 2020 and completed by 32,560 students who are parents. Through students’ reporting of their lived experience disaggregated by race and ethnicity, gender, and cohabitation status, we found:

  • Asian, Black & Latinx parenting students suffer extremely high rates of basic needs insecurity with deleterious effects on their young children; and
  • Nearly all single Black and Latinx students with young children endure basic needs insecurity; and
  • Black fathers are struggling significantly, and not getting adequate attention or support.