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[International] Household income plays crucial role in determining a child's prospects – report

12 Jul 2017
The Guardian

A recent study published on 12 July 2017 by the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) at the London School of Economics suggests that a family’s income affects directly a child’s life prospects. The findings suggest that family income variation should be considered in the design of solutions to improve children’s development. Fifty-five out of sixty-one case studies have shown that there is indeed a correlation between the increase of household income and children’s improvement of, for example, health, or cognitive outcomes, or social and behavioural development. In terms of figures, the article reports that the increase of up to US$1,000 in the 2000’s budget US households is associated with an increase of cognitive gains which spans between 5% and 27%. In the UK in particular, the findings represent a strong counter-argument against governments’ policies favouring welfare cuts.

Furthermore, the report represents a critical evaluation of Britain’s education investments aimed at children from poorer backgrounds. Financial help of this kind, the article suggests, is at risk of being misdirected, if the financial status of the child’s keeps escalating. The critique wants to promote change in how child poverty support is tackled at the moment. Child poverty is bound to increase in the UK, and so far only early-years programmes have reached significant results, whereas programmes aimed at youth and employment appear to have performed less successfully.

It is hoped that a the wide involvement of social scientists and neuroscientist in research projects concerning the effects of child poverty on brain development will call for greater attention towards the importance of the economic context in which child development and parenting unfolds. According to Cooper, it is important to note that parenting practices vary extensively, and more attention should be paid to the economic context in which the parenting takes place. This perspective allows to identify the root causes of inequality, rather than reinstating old-fashioned prejudices, e.g. blaming unemployed parents for their children’s poorer performance.

In the past, disagreeing parties advanced non-financial counter-analyses, which focus on issues such as maternal mental health and home learning environment (whereas the study reported treats them as intermediate outcomes), and highlight how early childhood experiences count more to children than financial wealth. Their positions, it appears, needs to be reconsidered in terms of wider inclusivity and in light of today’s disastrous recession and worsened conditions of poverty. Conveniently, the findings presented by CASE represent excellent back-up evidence that may be used by policy-makers to propose a plan in favour of increasing state benefits destined to the poorest families.

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