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Tracking the 'Learning Gap' in Time and Money

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By guest blogger Erik Robelen

It surely comes as no surprise to hear that children from low-income families typically enjoy fewer opportunities for learning and enrichment than those in more affluent households.

A new commentary and illustration published this week by Education Week drives that point home, and makes put those disparities in┬átangible terms. The analysis by the After-School Corporation aims to quantify—in both hours invested and dollars spent—the learning advantages that accumulate for children beyond the regular school day who grow up in middle- and upper-class homes.

By age 12, the analysis concludes, disadvantaged children have received about 6,000 fewer hours of learning time than their more-affluent peers, and their families have been outspent by about $90,000 on learning and enrichment activities.

(The actual methods used to calculate time and money differed. The $90,000 figure comes when comparing a child in a family from the bottom 20 percent of earners with one in the top 20 percent. The estimate for the time gap comes from comparing a child from a low-income family with one in either a middle- or upper-income family.)

"Families of means are so determined to help their kids acquire skills for lifelong success that they'll spend what they can, opening up a skyrocketing gap between what parents in the top income bracket and those in the bottom spend on their kids' educational enrichment," writes Lucy N. Friedman, the founding president of the After-School Corporation, a New York City-based nonprofit organization that developed the illustration. "As children grow, those gaps widen significantly."

Here's the illustration:


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