The Effect of Cost of Living On Academic Performance
An important article by Bernice Young on the website of the Hechinger Institute:
“Poor children living in higher-cost areas like the urban centers of California [and the East Coast] are more likely to struggle academically than their counterparts in lower-cost areas, according to research published earlier this week.
Based on a sample of more than 17,000 first-graders, the study by researchers from UCLA and the nonprofit Child Trends ‘provides important empirical evidence … that geographic variations in cost of living indeed matters for children’s well-being,’ the article states.
Although there is a substantive body of research examining the relationship between family income and child development and educational outcomes, this is among the first studies to look at the effects of cost of living on academic achievement.
‘The federal poverty threshold doesn’t factor in cost of living, and it doesn’t take into account that living in Los Angeles looks very different than rural Nebraska,’ said Rashmita S. Mistry, an associate professor at UCLA’s Department of Education and co-author of the report.
The research shows that ‘it is not enough to simply look at the associations between family income, family life, and children’s academic outcomes; how income plays out in young children’s lives is conditioned by how much it costs for a family to cover its basic needs – and what is left over thereafter,’ Mistry added by email.
. . .’This study demonstrates that cost of living influences family and child well-being in ways not captured by income alone and, if omitted, its influence would be lost as statistical noise,’ the study states.
By analyzing cost of living, the study authors said they discovered new insights about how family resources affect children.
For poor children in particular, living in a higher-cost area is also associated with lower levels of what researchers called ‘parental investments’ in their children related to time and money spent on extracurricular activities, school involvement, and books and a computer for the home. This is likely a result of having fewer financial resources left after paying for basic expenses, said study co-author Nina Chien of Child Trends, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center.” Read more here.
This is simple common sense, and yet the cost of living is often not factored in to policy decisions, or moreover in to conversations about income and education. That needs to change.