It’s something that a lot of people already tend to know, but this review of 34 studies from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation looks at whether wealth affects children’s outcomes, and concludes that it does. The authors analyzed studies which separated the effect of money from other factors (e.g., levels of parental education or parenting approaches) to isolate whether money was a direct cause of differences in outcomes.
- This review identified 34 studies with strong evidence about whether money affects children’s outcomes. Children in lower-income families have worse cognitive, social-behavioural and health outcomes in part because they are poorer, not just because low income is correlated with other household and parental characteristics.
- The evidence was strongest for cognitive development and school achievement, followed by social- behavioural development. Income also affects outcomes indirectly impacting on children, including maternal mental health, parenting and home environment.
- The impact of increases in income on cognitive development appears roughly comparable with that of spending similar amounts on school or early education programmes. Increasing household income could substantially reduce differences in schooling outcomes, while also improving wider aspects of children’s well-being.
- A given sum of money makes significantly more difference to children in low-income than better- off households (but still helps better-off children).
- Money in early childhood makes most difference to cognitive outcomes, while in later childhood and adolescence it makes more difference to social and behavioural outcomes.
- Longer-term poverty affects children’s outcomes more severely than short-term poverty.
- Although many studies were from the US, the mechanisms through which money appears to affect children’s outcomes, including parental stress, anxiety and material deprivation, are equally relevant in the UK.