Housing affordability and children's cognitive achievement

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Abstract

Housing cost burden-the fraction of income spent on housing-is the most prevalent housing problem affecting the healthy development of millions of low- and moderate-income children. By affecting disposable income, a high burden affects parents' expenditures on both necessities for and enrichment of their children, as well as investments in their children. Reducing those expenditures and investments, in turn, can affect children's development, including their cognitive skills and physical, social, and emotional health. This article summarizes the first empirical evidence of the effects of housing affordability on children's cognitive achievement and on one factor that appears to contribute to these effects: the larger expenditures on child enrichment by families in affordable housing. We found that housing cost burden has the same relationship to both children's cognitive achievement and enrichment spending on children, exhibiting an inverted U shape in both cases. The maximum benefit occurs when housing cost burden is near 30 percent of income-the long-standing rule-of-thumb definition of affordable housing. The effect of the burden is stronger on children's math ability than on their reading comprehension and is more pronounced with burdens above the 30 percent standard. For enrichment spending, the curve is "shallower" (meaning the effect of optimal affordability is less pronounced) but still significant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2092-2099
Number of pages8
JournalHealth Affairs
Volume35
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - 2016

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy

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