January 26, 2005 | By: Aimee Heald-Nielson
LEXINGTON, Ky.

Kentucky has more than 54,000 families with a head-of-household under the age of 25. The 2004 Kentucky Kids Count report detailed the educational and financial struggles of these families.

“These families are not faring as well as older families,” said Gary Hansen, Extension sociologist for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. “They are struggling to maintain steady employment, finish their basic education and they have difficulty providing everything their children need to transition into successful adults.”

The report stated that younger families are three times as likely to live in poverty as families headed by parents 25 years of age and older. Young families earn much less on average than older families. The median income for these younger families is just $20,000 per year, while for older families the median is around $35,000.

Hansen said low educational attainment is a major factor. Some youth drop out of high school when they become parents. Even for those who do finish, time often prevents young parents from obtaining a higher education, he said. New parenting responsibilities can limit opportunities to attend college.

The report shows that a full-time worker without a high school diploma earns $7,000 per year less than a worker with a high school diploma.

“In today’s economy a post-secondary degree has become a minimum credential for a living family wage,” Hansen said. “A worker with a four-year college degree earns $21,000 more per year on average than a worker with only a high school degree.”

Hansen believes that supporting higher educational attainment for young parents pays off in the long run. Not only do they earn more, but they also develop higher expectations for their own children’s educational attainment, he said.

“It is a test of our great society whether each generation of children is more successful than the last and whether each child has the same opportunities for success as the most fortunate child,” said Debra Miller, Kentucky Youth Advocates’ executive director. “Family values would seem to dictate that we support working parents by helping families to be the best parents possible. That includes assuring quality childcare, health care, and other services are available to all of Kentucky’s children.”

The entire report, with county-by-county breakdowns, is available on the Kentucky Youth Advocates Web site.
 

Contact: 

Writer: Aimee Nielson 859-257-4736, ext. 267
Contact: Gary Hansen 859-257-3471