An examination of the links between parental educational qualifications, family structure and family wellbeing 1981-2006

Publication Details

The primary purpose of this report is to examine and describe the relationship between family structure and family wellbeing and the educational qualifications of parents in New Zealand families over the period 1981–2006.

Author(s): Gerard Cotterell, Martin von Randow and Mark Wheldon, The University of Auckland.

Date Published: September 2008

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Section 2: The Impact of education on family wellbeing

This section provides a detailed breakdown of the results from the analysis of the relationship between family type, the educational attainment of parents in the family and the family wellbeing indicators, as described in the previous section. The analysis shows the effect of higher levels of educational qualifications being held by one or more parents in the family on a range of wellbeing indicators, including median equivalised income, the likelihood of a family having equivalised income below 60 percent of the median equivalised income, the likelihood of having no adult in paid employment, at least one adult working more than 48 hours per week, and not owning the home in which you live.

Median equivalised income

This indicator shows the median, real, gross equivalised family income. Equivalised income is gross income adjusted for family composition using the Revised Jensen Scale (Jensen 1988) and expressed in 1999 dollars using the March quarter Consumer Price Index (base 1999) for the relevant year (Statistics New Zealand 2005).

Table 2.1 shows the level of median, real, gross equivalised income for each family type without regard to the educational qualifications of one or more parents.

Table 2.1 Median equivalised income, by family/household type, 1981-2006
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 % Change
1981-2006
Couple with Dependent Children:
$35,165 $33,394 $33,508 $34,567 $38,981 $44,187 25.7
Couple with Only Independent Children:
$56,649 $52,965 $49,362 $51,448 $54,657 $60,225 6.3
One-parent Family with Dependent Children:
$15,520 $16,708 $14,565 $14,311 $14,594 $20,274 30.6
One-parent Family with Only Independent Children:
$41,145 $39,195 $33,537 $36,253 $35,182 $38,208 −7.1
Couple without Children
$56,154 $52,678 $51,268 $51,681 $54,934 $58,836 4.8


In each of the following tables in this section, the first three rows show the amount of median, real, gross equivalised income for each family type at each census, depending on the level of qualifications held by at least one of the parents. The last three rows show the difference in median equivalised income between family types where the parents hold different levels of educational attainment (as described in section 1.7).

Couples without children

Table 2.2 Median equivalised income: Couples without children
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 % Change
1981-2006
No Educational Qualifications:
$44,615 $39,561 $35,717 $37,348 $38,233 $41,975 −5.9
Secondary School Qualification:
$58,462 $52,678 $51,268 $51,681 $53,135 $54,578 −6.6
Post-secondary School Qualification:
$67,692 $59,387 $56,977 $58,947 $66,927 $64,815 −4.2
Difference Between Secondary Qualification and No Qualification:
$13,847 $13,117 $15,551 $14,333 $14,902 $12,603 −9.0
Difference Between Post-secondary Qualification and No Qualification:
$23,077 $19,826 $21,260 $21,599 $28,694 $22,840 −1.0
Difference Between Post-secondary Qualification and Secondary Qualification:
$9,230 $6,709 $5,709 $7,266 $13,792 $10,237 10.9


Overall, the level of real median equivalised income fell for couples without children between 1981 and 2006, regardless of the level of educational qualification held by any of the parents. The smallest decline in median equivalised income was recorded by families where at least one parent held a post-secondary qualification.

Over the period 1981-2001 the 'educational qualification premium', in terms of additional income paid for holding either a secondary or post-secondary qualification rose, before declining slightly between 2001 and 2006. In 1981 the income gap between those families where one or more adults held a post-secondary qualification and those where there were no qualifications was $23,077, but by 2006 this had fallen slightly to $22,840, a decrease of one percent. The gap between those with no qualifications and those with secondary qualifications also decreased between 1981 and 2006.

Couples with dependent children

Table 2.3 Median equivalised income: Couples with dependent children
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 % Change
1981−2006
No Eductaional Qualifications:
$30,139 $28,057 $25,336 $25,711 $26,108 $29,285 −2.8
Secondary School Qualification:
$34,965 $32,388 $32,178 $32,918 $35,756 $39,681 13.5
Post-secondary Qualification:
$41,462 $37,184 $38,407 $40,427 $45,574 $49,052 18.3
Difference Between Secondary Qualification and No Qualification:
$4,826 $4,331 $6,842 $7,207 $9,648 $10,396 115.4
Difference Between Post-secondary Qualification and No Qualification:
$11,323 $9,127 $13,071 $14,716 $19,466 $19,767 74.6
Difference Between Post-secondary Qualification and Secondary Qualification:
$6,497 $4,796 $6,229 $7,509 $9,818 $9,371 44.2


Median equivalised income declined over the period 1981-2006 for couples with dependent children where no parent had any educational qualification. However, for those families with either a secondary or a post-secondary qualification, the level of median equivalised income rose over this period.

The gap between the level of median income for those with no educational qualifications and those with either a secondary school qualification or a post-secondary qualification increased over the 25 years between 1981 and 2006. In 1981 the gap between those with no educational qualifications and those with a secondary education qualification was $4,826, and this had more than doubled to $10,396 by 2006, a rise of around 115 percent. The gap between those with no educational qualifications and those with post-secondary qualifications also increased, by around 75 percent, over this period, from $11,323 to $19,767.

Couples with only independent children

Table 2.4 Median equivalised income: Couples with only independent children
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 % Change
1981−2006
No Educational Qualifications:
$52,448 $48,948 $42,314 $42,877 $43,372 $44,929 −14.3
Secondary School Qualification:
$60,823 $54,105 $50,876 $54,127 $56,964 $61,298 0.8
Post-secondary Qualification:
$66,786 $59,115 $54,929 $59,621 $65,270 $68,026 1.9
Difference Between Secondary Qualification and No Qualification:
$8,375 $5,157 $8,562 $11,250 $13,592 $16,369 95.4
Difference Between Post Secondary Qualification and No Qualification:
$14,338 $10,167 $12,615 $16,744 $21,898 $23,097 61.1
Difference Between Post-secondary Qualification and Secondary Qualification:
$5,963 $5,010 $4,053 $5,494 $8,306 $6,728 12.8


For couples with only independent children where no parent held any educational qualifications, the overall level of median equivalised income fell over the period 1981-2006. However, for families where at least one parent held a secondary school or post-secondary qualification, the level of median equivalised income rose very slightly over the same period.

Over the period 1981 to 2006 the income gap between those with no educational qualifications and those with any form of qualification widened. The difference in median income level between those with a secondary school qualification and those with no qualifications was $8,375 in 1981 and widened to $16,369 by 2006, a gain of around 95 percent. The gap between those with a post-secondary qualification and those with no secondary qualification was $14,438 in 1981, and this increased to $23,097 in 2006.

One-parent families with dependent children

Table 2.5 Median equivalised income: One-parent families with dependent children
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 % Change
1981−2006
No Educational Qualifications:
$14,370 $16,708 $14,565 $14,311 $13,309 $15,950 11.0
Secondary Qualification:
$16,648 $17,351 $14,565 $14,311 $17,479 $20.274 21.8
Post-Secondary Qualification:
$24,291 $21,737 $19,973 $19,740 $18,943 $23,112 −4.8
Difference Between Secondary Qualification and No Qualification:
$2,278 $643 $0 $0 $4,170 $4324 89.8
Difference Between Post-secondary Qualification and No Qualification:
$9,921 $5,029 $5,408 $5,429 $5,634 $7,162 −27.8
Difference Between Post-secondary Qualifications and Secondary Qualifications:
$7,643 $4,386 $5,408 $5,429 $1,464 $2,838 −62.9


Median equivalised income fell for one of the three categories of one-parent families with dependent children between 1981 and 2006: those where the parent held a post-secondary qualification. This was an unexpected result, which was not found for any of the other family types. Real, median, gross equivalised income rose for one-parent families where the parent had either no educational qualifications or only a secondary school qualification, between 1981 and 2006.

The income gap between those with no qualifications and those with a secondary qualification widened over the period, from $2,278 in 1981 to $4,324 in 2006. However, because median income for those with post-secondary qualifications declined over the period, the gap between those with no qualifications and those with post-secondary qualifications narrowed, from $9,921 in 1981 to $7,162 in 2006. This narrowing of the gap was not a positive outcome, however, and as noted above reflected a decline in income for single parents with post-secondary qualifications.

One-parent families with only independent children

Table 2.6: Median equivalised income: One-parent families with only independent children
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 % Change
1981-2006
No Educational Qualifications:
$40,769 $39,031 $32,774 $32,127 $33,274 $33,601 −17.6
Secondary School Qualification:
$46,923 $43,524 $36,942 $37,458 $38,679 $42,036 −10.4
Post-secondary Qualification:
$52,475 $48,545 $42,314 $44,614 $45,549 $46,151 −12.0
Difference Between Secondary Qualification and No Qualification:
$6,154 $4,493 $4,168 $5,331 $5,405 $8,435 37.1
Difference Between Post-secondary Qualification  and No Qualification:
$11,706 $9,514 $9,540 $12,487 $12,275 $12,550 7.2
Difference Between Post-secondary Qualification and Secondary Qualification:
$5,552 $5,021 $5,372 $7,156 $6,870 $4,115 −25.9


The overall level of median equivalised income for one-parent families with only independent children fell over the period 1981-2006, regardless of the level of qualification held by the parent. The decline was least for those families where the parent held a secondary qualification and highest for those where the parent held no educational qualification.

The income gap between one-parent families with only independent children where the parent held a secondary or post secondary qualification and those where they held no qualifications widened over the 25 years between 1981 and 2006.

Overall commentary

Over the period 1981-2006 those families where no parent had any educational qualifications were more likely to experience a decline in median equivalised income than those where at least one parent had either a secondary or a post-secondary qualification. In the cases where at least one parent held a secondary school qualification, three of the five family types experienced a rise in median equivalised income. For the case where a parent held a post-secondary qualification, median equivalised income fell for three of the five family types.

As would be expected, for almost every family type at every data point over the 25 years between 1981 and 2006, there was a positive income gap between those families with at least one parent with either a secondary school qualification or a post-secondary qualification and those families where no parent had any educational qualification. The only exceptions to this were for one-parent families with dependent children in 1991 and 1996, where the levels of income were the same for those where the parent held a secondary school qualification and those where they had no qualification. However, these two cases are likely due to the way the median income data were constructed (it is harder to find differences in median equivalised income for one-parent families due to the equivalisation process (see Appendix D) and the fact that they have only one income), although it is possible that given the relatively high rates of unemployment at those times, having a secondary qualification made little difference to employability and hence income levels.

For most family types the 'premium', in terms of additional income, attached to having either secondary or post-secondary qualifications grew over the period 1981-2006. For example, for couples with dependent children, the difference in median equivalised income between those with no educational qualifications and those with a post-secondary qualification rose from $11,323 in 1981 to $19,767 in 2006, an increase of nearly 75 percent. The only exceptions to this were for both categories of one-parent families, where the 'premium' attached to obtaining educational qualifications declined slightly.

Low income

The low income indicator shows the proportion of all families/households whose equivalised gross income is less than 60 percent of the real, median, gross equivalised family/household income. Table 2.7 shows the incidence of low income across family types prior to taking into account the levels of parental education.

Table 2.7 Low income, by family/household type, 1981-2006
Family/
Household type
Percentage (%)
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 Change
1981−2006
Couple With:
Dependent Children 19.2 17.5 14.7 16.7 15.7 16.0 -16.7
Only Independent Children 7.5 3.9 3.2 3.6 6.8 7.5 0.0
One-parent Family with:
Dependent Children 68.0 61.8 69.2 67.4 68.5 65.4 -3.8
Only Independent Children 20.1 10.2 11.8 14.6 21.4 21.3 6.0
Couple without children 10.3 7.8 8.0 9.7 10.9 11.0 6.8


In each table in this section, the top three rows show the proportion of each family type having an income level below 60 percent of the median for that family type, depending on the level of educational qualification held by at least one of the parents. The bottom three rows show the difference in the proportions of each family type likely to be below the median for different levels of parental educational qualification.

Couples without children

Table 2.8 Low income: Couples without children
Educational Qualifications Percentage (%)
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 Change
1981−2006
No Educational Qualifications 14.7 13.1 15.1 17.6 19.8 20.5 39.5
Secondary School Qualification 8.8 7.0 7.6 8.8 9.9 10.9 23.9
Post-secondary Qualification 5.9 4.9 5.1 5.9 6.3 7.1 20.3
Difference Between:
Secondary Qualification and No Qualification 5.9 6.1 7.5 8.8 9.9 9.6 62.7
Post-secondary and No Qualification 8.8 8.2 10.0 11.7 13.5 13.4 52.3
Post-secondary and Secondary Qualification 2.9 2.1 2.5 2.9 3.6 3.8 31.0


Over the period 1981-2006 there was an overall rise in the proportion of couples without children whose income was below 60 percent of the median equivalised family income, regardless of the level of educational qualifications held. Couples without children where at least one person had no educational qualification experienced the biggest increase in the likelihood of being on low income.

As might be expected, the likelihood of being on low income was lower for those couples without children with at least one person holding a post-secondary qualification than for both those with a secondary qualification and those with no qualification. Furthermore, over the 25 years from 1981 to 2006, the likelihood of being below 60 percent of the median income figure rose at a higher rate for those with no educational qualifications than for those with either secondary or post-secondary qualifications.

Couples with dependent children

Table 2.9 Low income: Couples with dependent children
Educational Qualification: Percentage (%)
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 Change
1981−2006
No Educational Qualification 26.7 26.7 28.2 31.4 35.1 37.4 40.1
Secondary School Qualification 18.0 18.6 16.3 16.4 15.4 17.1 −5.0
Post-secondary Qualification 11.1 11.8 9.3 10.5 9.5 10.9 −1.8
Difference Between:
Secondary Qualification and No Qualification 8.7 8.1 11.9 15.0 19.7 20.3 133.3
Post-secondary and No Qualification 15.6 14.9 18.9 20.9 25.6 26.5 69.9
Post-secondary and Secondary 8.9 6.8 7.0 5.9 5.9 6.2 −10.1


For two of the three 'couples with dependent children' categories in this analysis, the likelihood of having a median income below 60 percent of the median level declined slightly between 1981 and 2006. As might be expected, couples with dependent children with no qualifications were the only subcategory for whom the proportion in the low income group increased.

The positive impacts of having a parent or parents with secondary or post-secondary qualifications on the likelihood of being below 60 percent of median equivalised income level increased considerably over the period between 1981 and 2006.

Couples with only independent children

Table 2.10 Low income: Couples with only independent children
Educational Qualifications Percentage (%)
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 Change
1981−2006
No Educational Qualifications 8.8 4.6 4.7 4.8 10.2 13.2 50.0
Secondary School Qualification 5.5 3.8 3.0 3.2 3.9 4.3 −21.8
Post-secondary Qualification 3.3 2.4 2.0 2.1 3.4 4.2 27.3
Difference Between:
Secondary Qualification and No Qualification 3.3 0.8 1.7 1.6 6.3 8.9 169.7
Post-secondary and no Qualification 5.5 2.2 2.7 2.7 6.8 9.0 63.6
Post-secondary and secondary Qualification 2.2 1.4 1.0 1.1 0.5 0.1 −95.4


Couples with only independent children with no parental educational qualifications had the highest likelihood of having less than 60 percent of the median equivalised family/household income, and their likelihood rose over the period 1981-2006.

One-parent families with dependent children

Table 2.11 Low income: One-parent families with dependent children
Educational Qualifications Percentage (%)
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 Change
1981−2006
No Educational Qualifications 73.1 69.1 77.9 76.5 81.1 79 8.1
Secondary School Qualification 67.0 58.8 68.3 65.2 67.0 66.1 −1.3
Post-secondary Qualification 45.1 41.8 48.1 47.7 53.6 53.3 18.2
Difference Between:
Secondary Qualification and No Qualification 6.1 10.3 9.6 11.3 14.1 12.9 111.5
Post-secondary and No Qualification 28.0 27.3 29.8 28.8 27.5 25.7 −8.2
Post-secondary and Secondary Qualification 21.9 17.0 20.2 17.5 13.4 12.8 −41.6


As might be expected, the likelihood of having an income below 60 percent of the median was higher for those one-parent families with dependent children where the parent had no qualifications than for those with either a secondary or post-secondary qualification. This holds for each census time point over the 25 years between 1981 and 2006. For those where the parent either had no qualification or held a post-secondary qualification, the likelihood of having low income increased over the period, while for those with a secondary qualification the rate remained unchanged across 1981 and 2006, although it did vary between these time points.

One-parent families with only independent children

Table 2.12 Low income: One-parent families with only independent children
Educational Qualifications Percentage (%)
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 Change
1981−2006
No Educational Qualifications 20.9 10.4 13.7 17.1 24.7 26.4 26.3
Secondary School Qualification 14.5 8.8 10.4 10.7 15.6 16.0 10.3
Post-secondary Qualification 10.4 6.3 8.3 9.2 13.1 14.4 38.5
Difference Between:
Secondary Qualification and No Qualification 6.4 1.6 3.3 6.4 9.1 10.4 62.5
Post-secondary and No Qualification 10.5 4.1 5.4 7.9 11.6 12.0 14.3
Post-secondary and Secondary Qualification 4.1 2.5 2.1 1.5 2.5 1.6 -61.0


Overall, the proportion of one-parent families with only independent children experiencing low income increased between 1981 and 2006, but in comparison to one-parent families with dependent children (see Table 2.11 above), the proportions on low income were much smaller. Those one-parent families with only independent children where the parent had either a secondary or post-secondary qualification were less likely than their counterparts with no qualifications to be in the low income grouping at each point between 1981 and 2006.

Overall commentary

For all family types and for all time periods, the higher the level of educational attainment, the less likely it was that the family had median equivalised income below 60 percent of the median equivalised family income. For all family types in which no parent had an educational qualification, the proportion experiencing low income rose between 1981 and 2006.

The 'education premium' attached to having at least one parent with higher educational qualifications grew for most family types over the period 1981-2006. For example, for couples with dependent children where no parent had any educational qualifications, 26.7 percent were experiencing low income in 1981, and this rose to 37.4 percent in 2006. For the same family type, where at least one parent had a post-secondary qualification, the low-income proportion was just over 11 percent in 1981, and declined slightly to 10.9 percent in 2006. The gap between these two groups widened from 15.6 percentage points in 1981 to 26.5 percentage points in 2001. This pattern was experienced by almost all family types over the period 1981-2006.

Families without paid employment

This employment indicator shows the proportion of all families where no parent is engaged in paid employment. Table 2.13 shows the results for this indicator, without taking into account the level of parental education.

Table 2.13 Families without paid employment, by family/household type, 1981-2006
Family/
Household type
Percentage (%)
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 Change
1981−2006
Couple with:
Dependent Children 4.4 3.4 9.8 8.6 6.9 5.0 13.6
Only Independent Children 18.7 17.8 20.8 18.0 17.0 14.8 −20.9
One-parent Family with:
Dependent Children 58.7 62.6 69.1 61.3 50.6 45.9 −21.8
Only Independent Children 64.8 61.0 62.3 56.9 52.4 48.1 −25.8
Couple Without Children 6.9 6.7 9.5 9.4 9.5 7.7 11.6


In this section the top three rows in each table show the proportions of families with no parent in paid employment for each level of educational qualifications held by at least one of the parents. The bottom three rows show the differences in the proportions with no parent in paid employment between each pair of levels of educational attainment for at least one of the parents.

Couples without children

Table 2.14 Families without paid employment: Couples without children
Educational Qualifications Percentage (%)
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 Change
1981−2006
No Educational Qualifications 11.5 10.8 17.6 18.0 17.1 14.8 28.7
Secondary School Qualification 4.9 5.9 8.0 6.9 7.2 6.4 30.6
Post-secondary Qualification 3.8 4.4 6.1 5.7 5.5 5.0 31.6
Difference Between:
Secondary Qualification and No Qualification 6.6 4.9 9.6 11.1 9.9 8.4 27.3
Post-secondary and No Qualification 7.7 6.4 11.5 12.3 11.6 9.8 27.3
Post-secondary and Secondary Qualification 1.1 1.5 1.9 1.2 1.7 1.4 27.3


Overall, the likelihood of couples without children having no adult in paid employment increased over the period 1981-2001, before decreasing between 2001 and 2006. For each census data point over the 25-year period, couples without children with no qualifications were more likely than those with secondary qualifications to have no person in paid employment. In turn, those couples without children who only had a secondary qualification were more likely at each census point to have no person in paid employment than those couples where at least one person had a post-secondary qualification. Couples without children and without educational qualifications were more than twice as likely at each census point to have no adult in paid employment as those with a post-secondary qualification.

Between 1981 and 2006 the premium rose with regard to employment status for those couples without children where at least one person held either a secondary or post-secondary qualification.

Couples with dependent children

Table 2.15 Families without paid employment: Couples with dependent children
Educational Qualifications Percentage (%)
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 Change
1981−2006
No Educational Qualifications 7.8 6.9 21.8 20.0 19.1 16.3 109.0
Secondary School Qualification 3.9 2.9 9.5 6.2 5.0 4.0 2.6
Post-secondary Qualification 1.9 1.5 4.9 4.2 3.2 2.6 36.8
Difference Between:
Secondary Qualification and No Qualification 3.9 4.0 12.3 13.8 14.1 12.3 215.4
Post-secondary and No Qualification 5.9 5.4 16.9 15.8 15.9 13.7 132.2
Post-secondary and Secondary Qualification 2.0 1.4 4.6 2.0 1.8 1.4 −30.0


Those couples with dependent children where no parent had any educational qualifications were much more likely to also have no parent in paid employment than those with secondary or post-secondary qualifications, for each of the census periods between 1981 and 2006. In addition, for those with no educational qualification, the proportion where no parent was in paid employment more than doubled between 1981 and 2006.

The premium attached to having educational qualifications increased with regard to reducing the likelihood of not having paid work, for those couples with dependent children where at least one parent held either a secondary or post-secondary qualification, between 1981 and 2006.

Couples with only independent children

Table 2.16 Families without paid employment: Couples with only independent children
Educational Qualifications Percentage (%)
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 Change
1981−2006
No Educational Qualifications 24.1 21.6 26.3 27.6 26.9 27.8 15.4
Secondary School Qualification 13.8 18.0 17.4 12.3 10.5 9.1 −34.1
Post-secondary Qualification 10.3 11.5 13.2 10.3 8.1 8.2 −20.4
Difference Between:
Secondary Qualification and No Qualification 10.3 3.6 8.9 15.3 16.4 18.7 81.6
Post-secondary and No Qualification 13.8 10.1 13.1 17.3 18.8 19.6 42.0
Post-secondary and Secondary Qualification 3.5 6.5 4.2 2.0 2.4 0.9 −74.3


For couples with only independent children with no educational qualification, the chances of having no parent in paid employment rose between 1981 and 2006, whereas it decreased considerably for the other two educational categories over the same period.

The premium attached to holding an educational qualification increased over the period, in terms of reducing the likelihood of being without paid employment, for those couples with only independent children where at least one parent had either a secondary or post-secondary qualification.

One-parent families with dependent children

Table 2.17 Families without paid employment: One-parent families with dependent children
Educational Qualifications Percentage (%)
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 Change
1981−2006
No Educational Qualifications 66.6 72.9 79.4 71.5 64.5 61.5 -7.7
Secondary School Qualification 53.9 58.8 65.6 56.9 45.9 42.1 −21.9
Post-secondary Qualification 31.7 35.6 42.7 37.7 34.6 32.7 3.2
Difference Between:
Secondary Qualification and No Qualification 12.7 14.1 13.8 14.6 18.6 19.4 52.8
Post-secondary and No Qualification 34.9 37.3 36.7 33.8 29.9 28.8 −17.5
Post-secondary and Secondary Qualification 22.2 23.2 22.9 19.2 11.3 9.4 −57.7


The likelihood of the parent in a one-parent family with dependent children not being in paid employment was greatest, as might be expected, where this parent had no educational qualifications. For single parents in this category with a secondary school qualification, the likelihood of being without paid employment rose between 1981 and 1991 before declining between 1991 and 2006. The same trend was observed where the parent held a post-secondary qualification, but the proportion without paid work was still slightly higher in 2006 than in 1981 for them.

One-parent families with only independent children

Table 2.18 Families without paid employment: One-parent families with only independent children
Educational Qualifications Percentage (%)
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 Change
1981−2006
No Educational Qualifications 70.4 67.9 69.0 67.0 63.1 62.2 −11.7
Secondary School Qualification 46.8 51.1 50.6 40.2 37.1 35.3 −24.6
Post-secondary Qualification 36.9 36.1 38.1 31.0 27.4 28.2 −23.6
Difference Between:






Secondary Qualification and No Qualification 23.6 16.8 18.4 26.8 26.0 26.9 14.0
Post-secondary and No Qualification 33.5 31.8 30.9 36.0 35.7 34.0 1.5
Post-secondary and Secondary Qualification 9.9 15.0 12.5 9.2 9.7 7.1 −28.3


Between 1981 and 2006, the likelihood of single parents with only independent children not being in paid employment decreased for each level of educational qualification held by the parent, with the largest decrease being experienced by those with a secondary educational qualification (13.5 percent). Over this 25-year period, the gap grew between the likelihood of single parents in this category with no educational qualifications and the likelihood of those with secondary or post-secondary qualifications.

Overall commentary

Families where at least one parent had a post-secondary qualification were less likely to have no parent in paid employment than those with secondary school qualifications for all family types in each time period. In turn, this latter group was less likely to have no parent in paid employment than families with no educational qualifications.

There are differences in the extent of lack of paid employment between one-parent families with dependent children and one-parent families with only independent children, which is probably due to the fact that adults in the former family type are more likely to be occupied with child raising.

Long hours worked

The long hours worked indicator shows the proportion of all families/households where at least one parent works more than 48 hours per week.

Table 2.19 Long hours worked, by family/household type, 1981-2006
Family/
Household Type
Percentage (%)
1981
1986
1991
1996
2001
2006
Change
1981−2006
Couple with:
Dependent Children
34.2
40.7
39.6
45.0
44.3
41.6
21.6
Only Independent Children
24.6
29.8
31.1
37.9
38.7
37.6
52.8
One-parent Family with:
Dependent Children
4.6
5.3
5.1
5.9
7.1
7.5
63.0
Only Independent Children
4.9
6.5
7.3
9.1
10.0
10.5
114.3
Without children
24.3
32.6
33.9
39.8
39.7
37.8
55.6


In this section the first three rows in each table indicate the proportions for each family type, according to the level of parental qualification, where at least one parent works more than 48 hours per week. The remaining three rows show the impact of the level of parental educational qualification on the likelihood of having at least one parent working long hours, as well as the difference between holding secondary and post-secondary qualifications.

Couples without children

Table 2.20 Long hours worked: Couples without children
Educational Qualifications Percentage (%)
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 Change
1981−2006
No Educational Qualifications 22.5 28.4 28.2 31.8 32.2 32.2 43.1
Secondary School Qualification 25.1 33.0 34.2 40.1 40.6 39.0 55.4
Post-secondary Qualification 25.7 34.6 37.1 44.4 44.2 40.3 56.8
Difference Between:
Secondary Qualification and No Qualification 2.6 4.6 6.0 8.3 8.4 6.8 161.5
Post-secondary and No Qualification 3.2 6.2 8.9 12.6 12.0 8.1 153.1
Post-secondary and Secondary Qualification 0.6 1.6 2.9 4.3 3.6 1.3 116.7


Whatever the level of educational qualification, all categories of couples without children experienced an increase in the likelihood of having one person working more than 48 hours per week over the period 1981-2001, followed by small decreases for two of the three educational categories between 2001 and 2006. Despite these decreases, and the fact that the proportions for couples without children and without educational qualifications remained unchanged between 2001 and 2006, the proportions working long hours in 2006 for every category were considerably higher than those in 1981. The biggest growth was experienced by those with a post-secondary qualification, followed by those with secondary qualifications.

Couples with dependent children

Table 2.21 Long hours worked: Couples with dependent children
Educational Qualifications Percentage (%)
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 Change
1981−2006
No Educational Qualifications 31.4 35.6 29.3 31.7 32.0 32.9 4.8
Secondary School Qualification 36.8 41.6 40.0 46.0 45.9 43.8 19.0
Post-secondary Qualification 35.6 42.7 44.0 50.7 48.8 44.1 23.9
Difference Between:
Secondary Qualification and No Qualification 5.4 6.0 10.7 14.3 13.9 10.9 101.9
Post-secondary and No Qualification 4.2 7.1 14.7 19.0 16.8 7.0 166.7
Post-secondary and Secondary Qualification 1.2 1.1 4.0 4.7 2.9 0.3 −125.0


Between 1981 and 2001, all categories of couples with dependent children, regardless of the level of educational qualification, experienced a growth in the proportion with at least one parent working more than 48 hours per week. The biggest increase was experienced by those with at least one parent holding a post-secondary qualification. However, between 2001 and 2006, couples with dependent children where one of the parents held a secondary or a post-secondary qualification experienced a slight decline in the proportion working long hours. Still, despite this decline, the proportions working long hours were considerably higher for all categories in 2006 than they had been in 1981, as was the case for couples without children.

Couples with only independent children

Table 2.22 Long hours worked: Couples with only independent children
Educational Qualifications Percentage (%)
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 Change
1981−2006
No Educational Qualifications 23.3 28.8 28.0 29.3 29.8 27.6 18.4
Secondary School Qualification 27.0 30.1 34.8 42.5 44.3 42.7 58.2
Post-secondary Qualification 26.3 31.5 35.1 45.1 47.2 43.2 64.3
Difference Between: 
Secondary Qualification and No Qualification 3.7 1.3 6.8 13.2 14.5 15.1 308.1
Post-secondary and No Qualification 3.0 2.7 7.1 15.8 17.4 15.6 420.0
Post-secondary and Secondary Qualification 0.7 1.4 0.3 2.6 2.9 0.5 −171.4


For any level of educational qualification held, the likelihood of having at least one parent working long hours rose for couples with only independent children over the period 1981-2001, before declining for all three educational categories between 2001 and 2006. Despite the decreases between 2001 and 2006, the overall levels were much higher in 2006 than in 1981, especially where at least one parent held a secondary or post-secondary qualification.

One-parent families with dependent children

Table 2.23 Long hours worked: One-parent families with dependent children
Educational Qualifications Percentage (%)
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 Change
1981−2006
No Educational Qualifications 3.8 3.4 3.0 3.4 4.3 4.9 29.0
Secondary School Qualification 4.5 5.1 4.8 5.2 6.7 6.5 44.4
Post-secondary Qualification 8.2 11.4 12.1 13.8 12.2 11.1 35.4
Difference Between:
Secondary Qualification and No Qualification 0.7 1.7 1.8 1.8 2.4 1.6 128.6
Post-secondary and No Qualification 4.4 8.0 9.1 10.4 7.9 6.2 41.0
Post-secondary and Secondary Qualification 3.7 6.3 7.3 8.6 5.5 4.6 24.3


For each level of educational qualifications held for this family type, there was a rise in the proportion with the parent working more than 48 hours per week over the period. However, given that these are single parents with dependent children, the increases are marginal, and are very low in comparison with the experiences of other family and household types.

One-parent families with only independent children

Table 2.24 Long hours worked: One-parent families with only independent children
Educational Qualifications Percentage (%)
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 Change
1981−2006
No Educational Qualifications 4.1 4.9 5.4 5.9 6.6 6.6 61.0
Secondary School Qualification 6.9 7.8 8.8 11.7 13.1 12.0 73.9
Post-secondary Qualification 9.8 13.1 15.3 19.5 19.6 17.8 81.6
Difference Between:
Secondary Qualification and No Qualification 2.8 2.9 3.4 5.8 6.5 5.4 92.9
Post-secondary and No Qualification 5.7 8.2 9.9 13.6 13.0 11.2 96.5
Post-secondary and Secondary Qualification 2.9 5.3 6.5 7.8 6.5 5.8 100.0


As with their counterparts with dependent children, one-parent families with only independent children, whatever the level of educational qualification held by the parent, saw a growth in the proportion working long hours over the period 1981-2006. The biggest rises, as with each of the family types in this section, occurred for those with a post-secondary qualification.

At the starting point in 1981, one-parent families with dependent children and one-parent families with only independent children had similar proportions with the parent working more than 48 hours per week for each level of educational qualification. However, by 2006 the experiences of these groups had diverged considerably, and one-parent families with only independent children had experienced a much bigger increase, at all levels of educational qualification, in the proportion working longer hours.

Overall commentary

All of the family types in this section of the analysis experienced a rise in the proportion working long hours over the period 1981 to 2006, irrespective of their level of parental educational qualification. In each case except for one-parent families with dependent children, those families with at least one parent with a post-secondary qualification experienced the greatest increase in the likelihood of working more than 48 hours per week over the period. The group experiencing the next biggest rise were those families where one or more parents had a secondary school qualification.

Home ownership

This indicator shows the proportion of families/households that do not live in owner-occupied dwellings. An increase in the figure indicates that fewer families are living in their own homes.

Table 2.25 Lack of home ownership, by family/household type, 1981-2006
Family/
Household Type
Percentage (%)
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 Change
1981−2006
Couple with:
Dependent Children 23.7 20.7 19.0 23.7 26.5 32.2 35.9
Only Independent Children 10.7 8.8 7.2 10.2 14.0 17.5 63.6
One-parent Family with:
Dependent Children 47.1 45.8 46.4 54.6 57.6 64.0 35.9
Only Independent Children 22.1 22.1 22.9 24.9 29.3 36.8 66.5
Couple: 
Without Children 30.4 26.5 24.2 25.5 25.9 31.4 3.3


In this section of the report the top three rows in each table show the proportions not living in owner-occupied dwellings for each family type by each level of parental education. The bottom three rows show the difference that the level of parental educational attainment makes to the likelihood of a family living in an owner-occupied dwelling, and the difference between holding secondary and post-secondary qualifications.

Couples without children

Table 2.26 Lack of home ownership: Couples without children
Educational Qualifications Percentage (%)
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 Change
1981−2006
No Educational Qualifications 26.1 23.9 21.3 22.5 20.9 27.5 5.4
Secondary School Qualification 39.4 32.3 30.5 30.2 26.7 31.3 −20.6
Post-secondary Qualification 30.7 25.7 22.8 25.0 27.0 30.7 0.0
Difference Between:
Secondary Qualification and No Qualification 13.3 8.4 9.2 7.7 5.8 3.8 −71.4
Post-secondary and No Qualification 4.6 1.8 1.5 2.5 6.1 3.2 −30.4
Post-secondary and Secondary Qualification 8.7 6.6 7.7 5.2 0.3 0.6 −93.1


The proportion of couples without children not living in owner-occupied dwellings increased slightly over the period for those who had no educational qualifications; declined for those where at least one person held a secondary qualification; and remained unchanged where a post-secondary qualification was held.

At each data point between 1981 and 2006, couples without children and without educational qualifications were more likely to be living in owner-occupied dwellings than those couples with higher levels of educational qualifications.

Over the 25 years between 1981 and 2006, the premium attached to having an educational qualification and its impact on the likelihood of living in an owner-occupied dwelling decreased.

Couples with dependent children

Table 2.27 Lack of home ownership: Couples with dependent children
Educational Qualifications Percentage (%)
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 Change
1981−2006
No Educational Qualifications 30.8 29.6 28.2 36.9 42.2 52.4 70.1
Secondary School Qualification 24.6 22.1 20.9 24.2 25.3 33.6 36.6
Post-secondary Qualification 16.6 15.4 14.1 16.9 20.2 25.1 51.2
Difference Between:
Secondary Qualification and No Qualification 6.2 7.5 7.3 12.7 16.9 18.8 203.2
Post-secondary and No Qualification 14.2 14.2 14.1 20.0 22.0 27.3 92.2
Post-secondary and Secondary Qualification 8.0 6.7 6.8 7.3 5.1 8.5 6.3


For couples with dependent children, the proportion living in dwellings they did not own rose over the period under examination, regardless of the level of educational qualifications held by the parents. The biggest increase in the likelihood of not living in an owner-occupied dwelling occurred for those couples with dependent children who did not have any educational qualifications.

Couples with only independent children

Table 2.28 Lack of home ownership: Couples with only independent children
Educational Qualifications Percentage (%)
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 Change
1981−2006
No Educational Qualifications 13.1 11.7 11.3 14.3 16.8 24.9 90.1
Secondary School Qualification 9.2 8.2 7.7 9.0 11.9 15.1 64.1
Post-secondary Qualification 6.7 6.3 5.9 6.7 10.7 12.1 80.6
Difference Between:
Secondary Qualification and No Qualification 3.9 3.5 3.6 5.3 4.9 9.8 151.3
Post-secondary and No Qualification 6.4 5.4 5.4 7.6 6.1 12.8 100.0
Post-secondary and Secondary Qualification 2.5 1.9 1.8 2.3 1.2 3.0 20.0


Between 1981 and 2006 rates of home ownership declined for each educational grouping within the couples with only independent children category. The biggest decline in home ownership, most of which occurred between 2001 and 2006, was for those couples with only independent children who had no educational qualifications, followed by those with a post-secondary qualification.

One-parent families with dependent children

Table 2.29 Lack of home ownership: One-parent families with dependent children
Educational
Qualifications
Percentage (%)
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 Change
1981−2006
No Educational Qualifications 51.7 52.9 53.8 62.2 68.4 74.6 44.3
Secondary School Qualification 44.8 41.2 42.3 50.4 53.5 61.1 36.4
Post-secondary Qualification 31.3 30.4 31.5 38.3 45.6 54.6 74.4
Difference Between:
Secondary Qualification and No Qualification 6.9 11.7 11.5 11.8 14.9 13.5 95.6
Post-secondary and No Qualification 20.4 22.5 22.3 23.9 22.8 20.0 -2.0
Post-secondary and Secondary Qualification 13.5 10.8 10.8 12.1 7.9 6.5 −51.9


One-parent families with dependent children, regardless of the level of educational qualification held by the parent, experienced a rise in the proportion living in dwellings they did not own between 1981 and 2006, with the biggest increase experienced by those with a post-secondary qualification.
Over the 25 years between 1981 and 2006 the premium attached to having an educational qualification decreased, with regard to its impact on the likelihood of living in an owner-occupied dwelling, for single parents with dependent children holding either a secondary or post-secondary qualification.

One-parent families with only independent children

Table 2.30 Lack of home ownership: One-parent families with only independent children
Educational Qualifications Percentage (%)
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 Change
1981−2006
No Educational Qualifications 23.6 24.8 26.7 28.0 32.5 41.4 75.4
Secondary School Qualification 18.3 18.8 20.2 19.9 24.4 31.9 74.3
Post-secondary Qualification 14.9 15.1 16.4 17.6 22.4 29.7 99.3
Difference Between:
Secondary Qualification and No Qualification 5.3 6.0 6.5 8.1 8.1 9.5 79.2
Post-secondary and No Qualification 8.7 9.7 10.3 10.4 10.1 11.7 34.5
Post-secondary and Secondary Qualification 3.4 3.7 3.8 2.3 2.0 2.2 −35.3


Levels of home ownership declined between 1981 and 2006 for one-parent families with only independent children, whatever the level of educational qualification held by the parent. Those with post-secondary educational qualifications experienced the biggest decline. On average, one-parent families with dependent children (see Table 2.29 above) were twice as likely as those with only independent children to be living in a dwelling they did not own.

Overall commentary

With the exception of couples without children where at least one of the adults held a secondary qualification, all families, regardless of the level of education of one or more of the parents present, experienced an increase in the likelihood of not living in an owner-occupied dwelling over the period 1981-2006.

Approximately 60 percent of the categories experienced a rise in the proportion not owning the dwelling they lived in of over 50 percent, with the largest growth generally occurring between 2001 and 2006.

The probable link between family wellbeing and the educational attainment of one of more of the parents is that higher educational attainment typically results in higher incomes, which make it easier to purchase housing. Of course, in recent years for many students the attainment of higher levels of educational qualification has come at the cost of higher levels of student debt, which may delay the purchase of housing until this debt is repaid.

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