How Your Income Determines Your Parenting Style

ByAnisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Mar 2017
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Parent debates usually focus on philosophy or methodology: Are you a helicopter or free-range parent? A cry-it-out proponent or a co-sleeper? But the latest data from the  Pew Research Center suggests that above anything else, how you parent may be tied to how much you make.

Many of the findings from the 1,807-person survey conducted this fall are fairly intuitive: For example, most parents with annual family incomes of $75,000 of higher send their young children to day care or preschool, while those making less than $30,000 rely more on family members.

But some inferences aren’t as obvious. The reason parents with lower incomes (below $30,000) may keep a tighter leash on their kids? More than half of them report fears of kidnapping or attacks, rating their neighborhoods as “poor” or “fair” places to raise children. These concerns are 15 percent more common than those reported by families with higher annual incomes.

More financially secure families report that they’re overextending their kids, packing their schedules with too many extracurriculars. About 20 percent of parents with incomes above $75,000 reported feeling this way, compared to 8 percent of those making less than $30,000.

A trend that decreases with education and income? Spanking. One in five parents with a high school diploma report sometimes using spanking as a disciplinary measure, compared to one in 12 among those who have a post-graduate degree.

In spite of all these differences, some overlap shows a few parenting aspects are universal. Nearly all parents surveyed report some involvement in their child’s education, whether that means talking to a teacher within the last year (85 percent) or helping a child with a project (60 percent). And regardless of income, we’re all still looking for parental approval of our own: Seven in 10 parents said they want their own parents to think they’re doing a good job raising a family.

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