These Factors Could Affect Kids' Learning

Socioeconomic factors tied to reading and math skills of kindergarten age children

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Could factors like household income affect a child's reading abilities? These seemingly unrelated factors might actually be connected.

The combination of social and economic factors like wealth, type of job and education is called socioeconomic status, or SES. A new study found that these factors might be tied to the educational outcomes of young children in a variety of ways.

The study found that, as SES increased, so did reading and math skills. The authors of this study called for early and thorough programs to address gaps in children's cognitive abilities.

"The first 5 years of life are critical for the development of language and cognitive skill," wrote the authors of this study, led by Neal Halfon, MD, of the Center for Healthier Children, Families, and Communities at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Dr. Halfon and team explained that SES has been tied to early outcomes in cognitive skill. These researchers aimed to explore just how SES factors might be tied to education.

They looked at data from the US Early Childhood Longitudinal Birth Cohort Study. This included 6,600 children who had a cognitive assessment when they entered kindergarten. The child's primary caregiver was also interviewed.

SES was determined based on the job, education and income of the children's parents. The children were divided into five groups ("quintiles") based on SES.

Dr. Halfon and team found that both reading and math skills increased as SES increased. In other words, the children from the lowest SES group had the lowest reading and math skills, and the children in the highest SES group had the highest reading and math skills.

The lowest SES children were more likely to have younger mothers and come from a single-parent home. Forty percent of the lowest SES group had a single-mother household. The same was true for only 5 percent of the highest SES children.

The lower SES children also spent less time with parents reading, had less computer use at home and had fewer books in the home — an average of 26 books in the lowest SES group and 114 books in the highest SES group.

The parents' expectations also seemed tied to SES — 96 percent of the highest SES parents reported expecting their child to earn a college degree. The same was true for 57 percent of the lowest SES parents.

"Family background, health, home learning, parenting, and early care and education factors explain over half the gaps in reading and math ability between US children in the lowest versus highest socioeconomic status quintiles ..." Dr. Halfon and team wrote.

This study was published online Jan. 19 in the journal Pediatrics.

A number of sources funded this research, such as the Academic Pediatric Association. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
January 16, 2015
Last Updated:
January 20, 2015