Foster Care History, Profiles of Adolescence, and Educational Attainment


  • Naomi J. Spence Lehman College, City University of New York
  • Susan A. Dumais Lehman College and The Graduate Center, CUNY


We examine whether foster care history is associated with educational attainment in adulthood. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), we group young Americans according to characteristics of their adolescent lives by using cluster analysis to create profiles of adolescence based on familial and other social risk and protective factors. Within these groups, we examine the effect of foster care history on the likelihood of post-secondary enrollment and degree completion. We find substantial heterogeneity among those who have experience with the foster care system and show that foster history influences educational attainment in young adulthood in most profiles of adolescence. Multinomial logistic regression models demonstrate nuances in the educational careers of young adults with a history of foster care experience. Our findings implicate a need for interventions that will assist those with histories in foster care in achieving their educational potential.

Author Biography

Susan A. Dumais, Lehman College and The Graduate Center, CUNY


Department of Sociology

Lehman College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York