It Takes a Village (Perhaps a Nation): Families, States, and Educational Achievement


  • Institute for Advanced Research, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, 777 Guoding Road, Shanghai 200433, China.

  • Department of Sociology, University of Cincinnati, P.O. Box 210378, Cincinnati, OH 45221.

  • This article was edited by Jay Teachman.

Department of Sociology, 264 Haines Hall, Box 951551, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1551 (


Research in the United States has shown that children growing up in 2-parent households do better in school than children from single-parent households. We used the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) data to test whether this finding applied to other countries as well (N = 100,307). We found that it did, but that the educational gap was greater in the United States than in the other 13 countries considered. Results from 2-level hierarchical linear models demonstrated that international differences in the educational gap were associated with several indicators of national policy and demographic contexts. No single policy appeared to have a large effect, but several policy combinations were associated with substantially reduced educational gaps between children from different family structures.