The most important time for parents to make money may be during their child’s early years, according to a new academic paper.
An article in the journal The Future of Children, published by Princeton University and the Brookings Institution, suggests that income may have the biggest impact on a child’s development during their first years, although researchers need more evidence. The paper says impoverished children often face disadvantages that may hamper success, but programs that provide families with additional income during a child’s early years could help break the cycle.
“Recent research in neuroscience and developmental psychology suggests that poverty early in a child’s life may be particularly harmful,” the paper says. “Not only does the astonishingly rapid development of their brains leave young children sensitive and vulnerable to environmental conditions, but the family (as opposed to school or peers) dominates their everyday lives.”
As a graph shows in the paper, low-income children enter kindergarten at a stark disadvantage to middle-class counterparts:
This disadvantage continues, as wealthier families have the means to spend significantly more on enrichment resources, like books, computers, summer camps and private school, that can aid education.
Besides the lack of resources, poverty can cause environmental or family stress, as low-income children are more likely to live in crowded housing, unsafe neighborhoods and attend worse schools. All of this hampers child development, according to the paper.
The paper notes this is unlikely to change anytime soon, with “achievement and attainment between low- and high-income children larger than anytime in the past 40 years.”