What if you could strengthen the weakest parents in America? Nine percent more of their children would graduate high school, 6 percent fewer would have a child by age 19 and 3 percent fewer would have a criminal conviction.
So conclude Richard V. Reeves and Kimberly Howard of the Brookings Institution in a report called "The Parenting Gap."
Parenting matters, they write. It matters to individual children, who are more likely to succeed at all stages of life if they have strong parents. And it matters for the collective health of society.
Policies to help weaker parents do a better job can be investments in opportunity and equality, the authors write.
It is no surprise that family income predicts parent quality. The wealthiest parents score as the strongest when researchers evaluated more than 30 years of data. They looked at family income and educational level, but also things such as the nature of meal times and whether there are books and toys in the home.
The difference in parent strength among income levels was most pronounced at the bottom of the economic scale. Parents in the bottom income level trailed middle-income parents much more than middle-income parents trailed the wealthiest group.
The same thing happens in education. The difference is greatest at the lowest levels.
Having plenty of money eases everything from buying groceries to hiring a lawyer. There's no mystery there.
But parenting among higher-income families is not just about buying things.
As family income rises, parents tend to spend more time with their children. And they spend it differently from the lowest-income families, the report says.