Family wealth may explain differences in test scores in school-age children

Mar 25, 2008

A new study published in the March/April 2008 issue of the journal Child Development finds that family wealth might partly explain differences in test scores in school-age children. The study, conducted by researchers at New York University, also found that family wealth is positively associated with parenting behavior, home environment, and children’s self-esteem.

Prior research has documented the association between children’s cognitive achievement and the socioeconomic status of their parents as measured by education level, occupation, and income. Many of these studies focused on the effect of poverty—defined by family income—on children’s achievement, but household wealth (i.e., net worth) has received little attention.

This new study used new methods, including data from a new national study (the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and its Child Development Supplement). It explored many functional forms and sources of wealth, looking at different mediating pathways of wealth from distinct sources, and analyzing how wealth affects children’s cognitive achievement at different stages of childhood.

The researchers found a marked disparity in family wealth between Black and White families with young children, with White families owning more than 10 times as many assets as Black families. The study found that family wealth had a stronger association with cognitive achievement of school-aged children than that of preschoolers, and a stronger association with school-aged children’s math than with their reading scores. Family wealth accumulated from different sources also was found to have a distinct influence on children at different developmental stages. Liquid assets, particularly holdings in stocks or mutual funds, were positively associated with school-aged children’s test scores. Family wealth was associated with a higher quality home environment, better parenting behavior, and children’s private school attendance.

The researchers suggest that the stronger impact of wealth on school-aged children may be because school-aged children benefit more from family wealth that is spent on educational resources that require substantial financial investment, such as private schools, extracurricular activities, and cultural experiences. Furthermore, older children may be more conscious of differences in wealth relative to their peers as they are exhibited in the quality of the learning environment, possessions, and the type of neighborhood where children live. These differences may influence their self-esteem and aspirations, which in turn are positively associated with their school performance.

“While wealth may help smooth consumption on a more short-term basis, the presence of wealth over time in a family (or extended family) may have a stronger impact of engendering a sense of economic security, future orientation, and the ability to take risks among all family members which, in turn, positively affect child development,” according to W. Jean Yeung, professor of sociology at New York University and the lead author of the study.

Despite the marked disparity in wealth between Black and White families, the study found little evidence that wealth by itself explains the test score gaps between Black and White children. Those gaps were found to become less meaningful when child and family demographic characteristics and parents’ income, education, and occupation were held constant. “Although wealth may not have a substantial short-term benefit in narrowing the Black-White achievement gap among young children, allowing and encouraging low-income families to accumulate wealth may improve family dynamics and foster a forward-looking attitude that may benefit children’s development in the long run,” said Yeung. “The financial effects of wealth would likely be observed later in life when school financing becomes an issue.”

Source: Society for Research in Child Development

Explore further: Experts call for higher exam pass marks to close performance gap between international and UK medical graduates

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Enigmatic bitcoin creator Nakamoto found: Newsweek

Mar 06, 2014

Newsweek said Thursday it had found the enigmatic creator of the online currency bitcoin, a reclusive Japanese-American physicist and model train fan whose name is actually Satoshi Nakamoto.

Olympic mascot calls attention to snow leopards' plight

Jan 28, 2014

When the 2014 Winter Olympics kick off next month in the Russian city of Sochi, attention will focus on thousands of elite athletes, scores of broadcasters and three cuddly animal mascots, including the appealing - but endangered ...

Online game addiction law divides SKorea

Dec 11, 2013

A law under consideration in South Korea's parliament has sparked vociferous debate by grouping popular online games such as "StarCraft" with gambling, drugs and alcohol as an anti-social addiction the government ...

Recommended for you

Obese British man in court fight for surgery

Jul 11, 2011

A British man weighing 22 stone (139 kilograms, 306 pounds) launched a court appeal Monday against a decision to refuse him state-funded obesity surgery because he is not fat enough.

2008 crisis spurred rise in suicides in Europe

Jul 08, 2011

The financial crisis that began to hit Europe in mid-2008 reversed a steady, years-long fall in suicides among people of working age, according to a letter published on Friday by The Lancet.

New food labels dished up to keep Europe healthy

Jul 06, 2011

A groundbreaking deal on compulsory new food labels Wednesday is set to give Europeans clear information on the nutritional and energy content of products, as well as country of origin.

Overweight men have poorer sperm count

Jul 04, 2011

Overweight or obese men, like their female counterparts, have a lower chance of becoming a parent, according to a comparison of sperm quality presented at a European fertility meeting Monday.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Treating depression in Parkinson's patients

A group of scientists from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has found interesting new information in a study on depression and neuropsychological function in Parkinson's ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...