Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

As Inequalities Grow, Rich Parents Spend More On Children’s Education

A new report finds that in the past four decades wealthier families have chosen to spend more on out-of-school enrichments, while spending from less wealth families has remained the same. (Lauren Chapman/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

A new report finds wealthy families’ spending on “education extras” has rocketed yet remained level in other income groups.  (Lauren Chapman/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

Here’s a no-brainer: Not all learning happens at school.

Toys, games, books, puzzles, crafts and after-school activities from bird-watching to basketball expand our knowledge and our capacity to learn — and most of that happens out of the classroom. But, with a price tag attached to each opportunity, access isn’t equal for all children.

And that divide is growing.

In the past four decades, spending on “education extras” has rocketed from wealthy families yet remained level in other income groups.

According to new research published in a journal from the American Educational Research Association, spending on childcare and learning enrichment goods for children younger than 6 years old has grown significantly among the wealthiest U.S. households since the 1970s. At the same time, it’s remained stagnant for all other income groups.

Using data from a federal survey, the report finds that the wealthiest 10 percent of U.S. households tripled their spending on extracurricular items and experiences. Spending went from $3,000 in the early 1970s to $9,000 in 2010.

Spending among households in the bottom 20 percent increased by $153 inflation-adjusted dollars from the early 1970s to the early 1980s, before stagnating, and it has remained relatively constant since then.

“Young, rich children grow up very differently from their less rich peers,” said study author Sabino Kornrich, in a statement.

Early participation in out-of-school enrichment activities has been shown to teach children skills like critical thinking, listening, memorization and concentration.

Other benefits appear to provide leadership and social skills development. These skills can help build children’s self-esteem and foster higher achievement in both academics and careers.

As educators across the country battle consistent achievement gaps — especially among low-income students, who are often students of color — the report points out that a family’s ability to pay for out-of-school items and experiences may be a major factor.

“Compared to the past, we now expect high-income students to come in to kindergarten or first grade with experiences very different from those of other children,” said Kornrich, in the statement. “One difference that might be related is a growing gap in test scores at a very early age between wealthy children and their peers.”



  • TWade

    Common sense will tell you that the ones with more money will spend more on their kids education. Money wasted on research that could have been used on a poor childs education. Let’s do research on the bias of teachers and the system towards the rich kids and the poor kids within our school systems. To play on any team sport or participate in any after school program requires the parents to buy uniforms, shoes, or special items to participate. When you are poor you don’t have extra cash for special shoes for sports or $100 dress for the school play or the time to take off from work to take your kids to these events. Research the teachers interaction between the “affluent” kids in a class and the poor and you will find that teachers tutor the “affluent” more often than the poor. How many smart kids has the system allowed to fall between the cracks because they were judged to be poor and not worth the time of tutoring by our education system that is supposed to be unbiased? We don’t need more research to tell us what the top ten percent is doing with their money, we need our education system fixed so that there is no biased between the poor and the middle class.

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