Choice between staying at school or entering the labour market: disadvantages faced by children from single-parent families
CEPS/INSTEAD and KU Leuven International Master in Social Policy Analysis Differdange, Luxembourg
The divorce rate in Europe is gradually climbing up, thus leading to an increasing number of children living with only one parent making up to 15-20% of all families with children. Using the OECD PISA data, the analysis confirms once again that their educational achievement is significantly lower when compared to the performance of peers with similar characteristics coming from two-parent families. These differences seem to be particularly large in Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. In other countries like Finland, Iceland and Eastern European countries no such differences are being observed. Also, students coming from one-parent families show lower educational expectations. In nearly all the countries, the proportion of students who aim at finishing only secondary school or go for vocational track providing an access to the labour market is higher than among comparable peers from two-parent families. Fewer students aspire to continue their education beyond this level and number of those who would like to reach tertiary degree is significantly lower.
Analysis based on the PISA 2003 data includes 23 000 children from single-parent families in 23 European countries. Single-mother families make 85% of all the single-parent families. More frequently when compared to mothers in two-parent families, single mothers work full time, while the unemployment remains higher as well. As far as the PISA study is concerned, single parents differ neither in their nominal occupational status, nor in their educational level from parents in intact families. In other words, we cannot claim that parents of lower socio-economic strata are more often divorced, at least, not in case of the PISA data. Income is one of the main factors to explain differences in current as well as the future educational achievement1, for once it is being controlled for, both achievement and aspiration come closer to those of their peers from intact families in majority of the cases. The study aims to show the particular vulnerability of single-parent families and their children and to put forward more evidence in favour of a stronger child-centred policy in Europe with income re-distribution being one of its main tools.