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How Children's Socioeconomic Differences Play Out Over Summer Break

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By guest blogger Sasha Jones

Over the summer, the average student loses one to three months of learning, and a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics suggests one reason for what is known as the "summer slide:" Children from lower-income homes engage in a different mix of activities over the summer than those from better-off households, 

In a nationally representative study of the kindergarten class of 2010-11, NCES found that in the summer after kindergarten, 83 percent of children from low-income households did not have regular care arrangements with someone other than their parents, compared to 70 percent of the children from higher-income households.

Students from higher-income households were also more likely to attend summer camp, with 38 percent of nonpoor students attending a day camp, compared to 13 percent of near-poor students and 7 percent of poor students.

Although more than half of all children surveyed visited a beach, state or national park, zoo, amusement park, or other similar activity, socioeconomic disparities existed.

For example, 54 percent of children from poor households visited a zoo or aquarium compared to 69 percent of children from nonpoor households. Similarly, only 32 percent of students from poor households visited art galleries, museums, or historical sites, compared to 63 percent of students from nonpoor households.

Still, some activities are more accessible than others. Overall, 76 percent of children played outside every day during the summer following kindergarten. The NCES found no measurable differences in outside playtime based on families' poverty status or parents' education.

Children from poor and near-poor households (25 percent and 22 percent, respectively) were also more likely to practice writing activities with a family member every day than nonpoor children (13 percent). On the other hand, higher-income students were more likely to be read to by a family member every day.

Previous research suggests that boosting engagement in summer learning opportunities is associated with closing the achievement gaps between low and high-income students.

Photo by Getty

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