Affordable Housing Linked to Children’s Intellectual Ability

(excerpt)

"...The findings are highlighted in two new journal articles, Housing affordability and investments in children, published in the Journal of Housing Economics, and Housing affordability and child well-being, published in Housing Policy Debate.

More than 88 percent of renters with the lowest incomes spent more than 30 percent of their income on rent, according to the 2009 American Community Survey. And the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s latest report on affordable housing states household incomes must be at least 105 percent of the area median for a family to find decent, affordable housing units.

Families that spent most of their money on housing spent less on things like books, computers and educational outings needed for healthy child development, Newman and Holupka found. Families that didn’t invest enough in housing likely ended up in the sort of distressed neighborhoods and inadequate dwellings that can also take a toll on children.

“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.”

Newman and Holupka found families who had obtained truly affordable housing, spending roughly 30 percent of their income on it, did indeed spend more money on enrichment for their kids.

When a family moved from spending more than half of its income on housing to the 30 percent ideal, they invested an average of $98 more on their children, the researchers found. Not a lot of money, but enough to make a difference. Even when families increased the amount spent on housing — from spending 10 percent of their income to 30 percent — they spent about $170 more on child enrichment.

“People are making trade-offs,” Holupka said, “and those trade-offs have implications for their children.”

The MacArthur Foundation supported this research."

6/9/2014 - Jill Rosen

Johns Hopkins University