With the unprecedented threat of reproductive care by the draft opinion of Justice Samuel Alito overturning Rowe v. Wade, more and more women, especially from low-income backgrounds, may have to give up their education for a child.
As education sociologists, we wanted to better understand the paths and attitudes of low-income women who are shut down because of motherhood. To do this, we studied the trajectory of 3,290 people who followed them from adolescence to the mid-20s. We conducted in-depth interviews and surveys from the National Student and the National Study of Youth and Religion with the National Student Clearinghouse’s educational record.
What we got was amazing: a surprising number of low-income women were dropping out of college but then Coming backখনSometimes more than once during their education. Why are so many women holding back their education? Unplanned pregnancy.
We have seen that when women have to interrupt their education in order to take care of a child, there are long-term consequences: late start in their careers, less pre-professional experience than their peers and more fragmented peer networks. For low-income students. Reproductive rights and educational attainment go hand in hand. Any threat to one will have serious consequences for the other বিশেষ especially for low-income women who will benefit greatly from both.
Low-income mothers face unique obstacles in finishing college
Although maternity punishment in the workplace has long attracted the attention of scholars and social workers, our research suggests that this pattern began much earlier. In the workplace, the influential narrative of mothers is less committed to their careers and the unequal participation of working women in housework and child care results in recruitment, wages and promotional fines for women with children. We argue that the barriers that young mothers face in obtaining degrees and the unequal rate at which they stop their education for childcare create maternal punishment in education.
But not all women face this punishment. It is most common among those who lack resources – the same women who are at risk of unintended pregnancies. After analyzing semester-by-semester college enrollment data, we found that low-income women are more likely to experience barriers to their education than high-income women, as well as men from any economic background. Repeatedly, we find stories of aspiring women from low-income families whose college dreams were shattered after they became pregnant.
Among those who carried their pregnancies to the end, many continued classes and work while pregnant and took leave only after the birth of their child – a testament to their determination. Although high-income women rarely had financial support from their parents during pregnancy, we found that low-income women often supported themselves through low-paying jobs. Being a new parent as well as shaking up work and school is a recipe for burnout. Bella, a young woman interviewed as part of the National Study of Youth and Religion, explained when asked why she finally took a break from college after having children: “I was working full time and I was working full time. Time Mom I worked night shifts from 6pm to 6am and then went to college during the day.
As their degrees continue to rise in recent decades, these results complicate the conventional narrative that identifies women as having an advantage in education – a narrative that obscures the experiences of low-income women for whom the feminist revolution has just begun. In terms of labor force participation and unpaid supervision, not to mention domestic violence, the epidemic has already left a generation behind women. The reversal of Row vs. Wade will only exacerbate this trend and lower-income women will have to pay the highest price.
What colleges can do: Recommend two policies for pursuing equity
Colleges are uniquely positioned to support low-income mothers, given the high rate of unintended pregnancies among college-aged women (18 to 24 years old). Without access to safe abortion and reproductive care, more students like women in our study will be forced to suspend their degrees in order to care for a child. Conservative state low-income students will suffer the most from both the high cost of out-of-state abortion care and the expectation of providing most child care if they are carried out on time. To work towards a truly accessible higher education system, education leaders and policymakers need to address the needs of low-income mothers and those seeking abortion.
In order to retain low-income mothers and choose support among pregnant students, colleges should consider adopting the following policies.
- If a student chooses to terminate their pregnancy, they may be forced to miss classes in order to receive health care outside the state. Colleges, especially in states that restrict abortion, may be active in supporting their students by introducing an excuse-absence policy for those seeking reproductive care. Currently, Title IX only mandates the absence of an excuse for abortion in case of medical need, so college teachers can play an important role in extending this definition to the classroom and actively defaming the issue.
But missing classes is not the only obstacle these students must face; They will also have to pay for transportation and medical expenses. In light of this reality, colleges could establish an open-access emergency fund for pregnant students who wish to have an abortion outside the state and make its existence known in clinics and classrooms alike. A simple application and approval process is important here, as women often have days where they are able to take life-changing steps.
- If a student chooses to continue their pregnancy, colleges can help them continue their education by implementing parental leave policies. The core principles of a truly supportive parental leave program will include a) allowing students to withdraw institutional financial aid without punishment, (b) providing individual support to students to better manage their federal financial aid, c) a person-centered collaboration. Create learning plans, conduct quarterly check-in for students and their academic advisors, and d) promote responsibility and maintain an important sense of connection while students are away.
Now more than ever, colleges must support low-income women
The college system was designed for independent students যারা who could prioritize school work above all else কিন্তু but the reality is that low-income women live interdependent lives. They are partners and have children, care for younger siblings or sick family members, and work part-time while earning a college degree.
For low-income mothers, a college degree can provide a way out of poverty. It opens the door to higher paying jobs, expands their social networks and prepares them to guide their children through the education system in later life. With the growing threat of safe abortion, reproductive health grants and parental leave programs were no more important. By supporting low-income women in obtaining college degrees, such policies have the potential to advance gender equality and social mobility in order to give young mothers and their children a better shot at a prosperous future.