Link between parental education and child mortality
Education has long been considered a core social determinant of health with Sustainable Development Goal 4 focusing on promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all, with a specific emphasis on better education for girls.
The educational attainment of parents, particularly mothers, has been associated with lower levels of child mortality, yet there is no consensus on the magnitude of this relationship globally. This study aimed to estimate the total reduction in under-5 mortality associated with increased maternal and paternal education. A comprehensive global systematic review and meta-analysis of all existing studies of the effects of parental education on neonatal, infant, and under-5 child mortality was undertaken along with primary analyses of Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data. Full-text screening was done in 15 languages. The systematic review yielded 186 studies after exclusions. DHS data were compiled from 114 unique surveys, capturing 3,112,474 live births. Data extracted from the systematic review were synthesized with primary DHS data, for meta-analysis on a total of 300 studies from 92 countries. Increased maternal and paternal education showed a dose–response relationship linked to reduced under-5 mortality, with maternal education emerging as a stronger predictor. A single additional year of schooling was, on average, associated with a reduction in under-5 mortality of 3·04% for maternal education and 1·57% for paternal education. This study quantifies the transgenerational importance of education for child survival at the global level. Lower maternal and paternal education are both risk factors for child mortality, even after controlling for other markers of family socioeconomic status.
Read more: Balaj, M. et al. (2021) Parental education and inequalities in child mortality: A global systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet, doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)00534-1