Housing Stability & Education
Severe forms of housing instability can seriously jeopardize children’s performance and success in school.
• Students who experience homelessness or hypermobility have been shown to perform below other low-income peers throughout elementary school. In the 2011-12 school year, over 1.1 million school children or youth were identified as homeless.18 These children are more likely than their peers to drop out of school, repeat grades, perform poorly in school, disengage in the classroom, and suffer from learning disabilities and behavior problems. These students may struggle to catch up due to high stress, disrupted school attendance and broken bonds with teachers and friends. These factors are compounded by the impact of traumas often associated with homelessness (family violence, economic crises, etc.)
• In schools with large populations of hypermobile children, the educational outcomes of the entire student population suffers. Review and catch-up work are more often necessary in these schools, and teacher morale is lower compared to schools attended by a less-mobile student population.21 For low-income students, changing homes even one time in elementary school can have a negative effect on school performance, contributing to a long-lasting achievement gap.
• When low-income students move to a new home address – even once – during their elementary school years, it can have a long-lasting, negative effect on their educational achievement. A recent study of over 8,000 primarily low-income urban students in Tennessee found that for every residential move before second grade, students’ math and reading test scores dropped relative to their peers. Moreover, the achievement gap was not made up over time. Researchers found that early childhood mobility led to poorer academic achievement throughout elementary school.22 This is especially concerning because the study also showed that poorer children were much more likely to move multiple times, compared to their more advantaged peers.
• The harm of moving may be compounded if children also change schools. Researchers have found that changing schools results in a decrease in math and reading achievement for elementary school children, equivalent to a 3-4 month learning disadvantage.23 Stable, affordable housing improves educational outcomes for vulnerable children.
• Access to quality, affordable housing helps create a stable environment for children by reducing frequent family moves and avoiding the negative impact of moving on educational achievement.
• Affordable housing can serve as a platform for supplementary education programs, helping vulnerable children better access educational resources. It could be used as a base for after school programs, or as a neighborhood anchor for broader community development plans, including new or improved schools.