12 JULY 2017 • 1:21PM
Household income affects children’s cognitive abilities, and can impact their educational prospects, new research has found.
Children’s physical health and social and behavioural development are also impacted, with family income proving a crucial factor in children’s home environment.
The report, published by the London School of Economics and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, also found that household income affects mothers’ mental health, which is significant for child development.
“It’s very well established that children from lower income households do worse in many ways than children from households with more income,” said Kitty Stewart, Associate Professor at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at LSE.
Reasons for this have previously been disputed, Stewart said. Parents from higher income households might be more educated, and take a closer interest in their children’s homework.
However, the new report suggests that financial security plays an important role in a child’s cognitive ability and attainment.
“We can now confidently say that money itself matters and needs to be taken into account if we want to improve children’s outcomes,” said Kerris Cooper, who co-authored the report with Stewart.
“We often focus on gaps at school – but what the evidence shows is that money doesn’t only make a difference to children’s cognitive outcomes, it also makes a difference to their physical health, to birth weight, and to social and behavioral development.”
The report, which reviewed 61 studies, estimates that closing the income gap between the households of children entitled to free school meals and other, average households could reduce the achievement gap by more than half.
Researchers also found that increasing a household income and investing in education both have similar impacts on children’s attainment at school.
This means that attempts to boost poorer children’s educational prospects might have little impact if household incomes continue to fall.