By: Staff Report
It seems like a far stretch to connect how much families spend in housing and housing costs with how well children learn, but the researchers at Johns Hopkins University have made a very strong case for it. According to Sandra J. Newman, policy studies professor, and researcher C. Scott Holupka, spending too much in housing leads to parents spending less on their kids. The ideal percentage is the widely recommended 30%. They concluded, using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and its Child Development Supplements, as well as information from Consumer Expenditure Surveys conducted between 2004–2009, this specific amount (or less) yields the best results for children. This particular research focused on families with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty guideline. “Families spending about 30 percent of their income on housing had children with the best cognitive outcomes,” says Newman, who is also director of the university’s Center on Housing, Neighborhoods and Communities.
But why exactly is this, and what of those spending more, which according to a 2009 American Community Survey is more than 88 percent of renters with the lowest incomes?
Because these families are exceeding the recommended amount, they have less to spend on books, computers, and educational outings needed for healthy child development, Newman and Holupka found. Meanwhile, those that didn’t invest enough in housing ended up in distressed neighborhoods and inadequate dwellings that can also take a toll on children. Remember, these are families with income far less below the federal poverty guideline, so these tradeoffs have strong implications, according to Holupka.
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