A new study from New York University has revealed that family wealth may play an important role in the cognitive achievement of school children.
Researchers have found that family wealth is positively associated with parenting behaviour, home environment, and children's self-esteem.
The researchers believe that the impact is stronger as school-aged children benefit more from family wealth that is spent on educational resources that require substantial financial investment, such as private schools, extracurricular activities, and cultural experiences.
Moreover, older children may be more conscious of differences in wealth relative to their peers as they are exhibited in the quality of the learning environment, possessions, and the type of neighbourhood where children live.
These differences may influence their self-esteem and aspirations, which in turn are positively associated with their school performance.
For the study the researchers acquired data from a new national study (the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and its Child Development Supplement) and explored various functional forms and sources of wealth, looking at different mediating pathways of wealth from distinct sources and analysed the affect of wealth on children's cognitive achievement at different stages of childhood.
The findings revealed that the family wealth had a stronger association with cognitive achievement of school-aged children than that of preschoolers, and a stronger association with school-aged children's math than with their reading scores.
Family wealth was associated with a higher quality home environment, better parenting behaviour, and children's private school attendance.
"While wealth may help smooth consumption on a more short-term basis, the presence of wealth over time in a family (or extended family) may have a stronger impact of engendering a sense of economic security, future orientation, and the ability to take risks among all family members which, in turn, positively affect child development," said W. Jean Yeung, professor of sociology at New York University and the lead author of the study.
The study is published in the March/April 2008 issue of the journal Child Development.