It’s no real surprise that research shows that affordable housing increases families’ health, security, and well-being.
And now, a new study by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore discovered that another benefit: Kids that live in modest homes perform better on tests.
More specifically, “Families spending about 30 percent of their income on housing had children with the best cognitive outcomes,” Sandra J. Newman, the director of Johns Hopkins Center on Housing, Neighborhoods, and Communities, told Phys.org. “It’s worse when you pay too little and worse when you pay too much.”
The study, whose findings are reported in the Journal of Housing Economics and Housing Policy Debate found that when families used more than a third of their income to cover housing expenses — which was the case for 88 percent of the lowest-income families surveyed — they spent less on education boosters such as books, computers, lessons, and trips to museums and performances. The families that spent 20 percent or less on housing tended to live in distressed neighborhoods where the instability impacted the kids’ cognitive performance.
“The markedly poorer performance of children in families with extremely low housing cost burdens undercuts the housing policy assumption that a lower housing cost burden is always best,” Newman said. “Rather than finding a bargain in a good neighborhood, they’re living in low-quality housing with spillover effects on their children’s development.”
When families saw the percentage of income they had to pay to cover their housing decrease, the money they spent on their kids’ enrichment increased. “People are making trade-offs,” study researcher C. Scott Holupka told Phys.org, “and those trade-offs have implications for their children.”