Low Income and School Performance in Middle Childhood: Persistence, Timing, and Mediators

Sally C. Curtin, University of Maryland
Sandra Hofferth, University of Maryland

Although the association between low family income and diminished academic achievement is well documented, questions remain as to how low income affects school performance and, ultimately, high school graduation. Economic disadvantage may act directly or through mediators such as parenting behavior or fewer resources in the home. Using data from the 1997 Child Development Supplement to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, this study examines how the duration and timing of low income affect children’s cognitive achievement, behavior and health, and the extent to which these contribute to grade retention in middle childhood. Results suggest that all three, behavior, achievement and health, contribute to grade retention. The effects of income operate on behavior through parenting and neighborhood while the effects of income on achievement operate more through the home environment. Public assistance receipt in the early years is related to lower grade retention.

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Presented in Poster Session 2: Education, Gender, Religion, Language and Culture