The impact of family economics on education

Tertiary education tends to be the domain of the privileged few who can secure the finances, either by means of bursary or family funding, to access it. The impact of family finances on the quality of education, however begins early in the school career. Families whose finances are cosntrained will tend towards entering their children in public schools, where the education quality level may be lower than in private schools, where funding is not a problem.

The family’s attitude towards their finances, as well as other personal and emotional factors, also play an important role in this. Self-esteem and the drive to search for a higher level of income or better job satisfaction are signficant factors that influence parents, their children, and further generations in the education process.

Task 4: The impact of family economics on education

Basic elementary and secondary school education in the United States is seen as a basic human right, while tertiary education and private schools tend to be the privilege of those with the funding to afford it. Because of the human rights issue, public schools are obliged to teach children from all economic backgrounds. The problem associated with this is however that the quality of education provided in public schools could be compromised by factors such as a lack of funding, an unmitigated influx of students, and a lack of continual teacher training. Because private schools are funded by parents, they have the luxury of creating a high quality of educational value, along with the ability to afford the best teachers and to maintain a low teacher to student ratio. While this is not to say that all public schools provide a poor quality of education; the challenges they face in providing such quality are simply more than those faced by private institutions. When these factors are taken into account, it follows that students from families with constrained finances tend to be enrolled in public education institutions, which potentially compromises the quality of their education. Furthermore, such students tend to be unlikely candidates for tertiary education, unless they can find alternative sources of funding, such as bursaries or loans.

A less obvious factor in this regard is perhaps the family’s attitudes around financial issues. The effect of parental stress resulting from financial strain on children could compromise their ability to perform well academically, regardless of the type or level of education they receive. Children also tend to adopt the parental attitude towards money and education. Continuously being aware that “money means education” could result in the belief that, because of financial constraints, the student might as well make no effort within the educational setting. Hence, a secondary effect of financial constraints can be seen within the attitude of students at school; the parents have indicated that they have no money for tertiary education, and therefore the students believe that there is little reason to make any effort to perform well academically. In other words, they tend to believe that a lack of money translates to a lack of educational future.

According to the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (2000), financial issues are part of the wider concept of socioeconomic status. A high level of financial well-being generally translates to a higher level of social status as well. Hence, socioeconomic status is the result of not only family income, but also parental education, occupation, and social status in the community. A high level of parental education would most likely for example be applied to the children in such a family, where parents believe in the importance of education. This high level of education would also be associated with a higher income level, and therefore more resources to ensure the educational success of the child.

Being concerned with their children’s development, higher-income families are likely to invest in high-quality resources such as child care, books, toys, and home learning activities. They are also more likely to have access to information regarding the social, emotional, and cognitive development of their children. This knowledge will help them to provide their children with a good preparation basis for elementary school, and their entire educational careers. Many lower-income families simply do not have access to such resources, resulting in a lower level of educational prowess for their children.

An important factor is however that socioeconomic status is no the only indicator of excellence or the lack thereof in the education of children. Because of social and economic developments, it is more likely in today’s families for both parents to be involved in the job market. The amount of time and energy to maintain this, along with a smoothly running household, could detract from the effort to educate young children. Parents in these families could for example lack the time and energy necessary to invest in excellent preschool education, or to help their school children achieve their full potential.

Nevertheless, the divide between high- and low-income families tends to be the main determinant of educational quality for children, particularly after they have entered school. High-income families would for example be able to send their children to private schools and tertiary education institutions, where as low-income families are less likely to do so. Even with minimal parental involvement, those from high-income families tend to receive a higher level of education than their lower-income counterparts (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, 2000).

Taylor (2009) makes a more specific assessment of socioeconomic status by focusing on homeownership and its correlation with higher education. In addition to being an indicator of financial well-being and socioeconomic status, homeownership also relates to the sense of self within families living in their own homes. Owing a home, especially in today’s economic climate, is one of the strongest determinants of financial success. Taylor’s study found a positive correlation between academic attainment and homeownership. It follows that, as an indicator of economic status, homeownership also indicates a potentially higher level and quality of education than for children from families where apartments or homes are rented.

The above-mentioned factors play a role here. Taylor (2009) confirms that the level of income required to buy a home also indicates that these families have a wider range of choices regarding factors such as what schools their children will attend, and the fact that they will earn a post-secondary degree. The quality and level of education are simply better, because the funding is available to support these.

Indeed, the financial issue is a significant factor in the ability to complete a college degree. According to Taylor, a significant sector of the tertiary student population struggle to repay their loans after completing their studies, with some even filing bankruptcy as a result. Financial constraints therefore present a large determinant of the ability to obtain or indeed finish a college degree.

In addition to material income level, Taylor also mentions the finding that homeownership indicates other elements that are conducive to education level in children. The community within which children grow up and with which parents are associated, for example is closely connected to homeownership. Owning a home within a fairly high-income community for example associates children in these homes with other community members where the educational level is also high. It is a socially accepted fact that children will go to certain schools and enter the tertiary level once the graduate from high school.

A further element is the parental involvement in the discipline of their children within these communities. Parents in these communities tend to promote scholastic achievement, and would therefore pay attention to the time children spend studying. They would also place a high level of importance on behavioral elements, and curb unacceptable behavior with the help of the community.

Because of long-term homeownership and payments, the likelihood of remaining in the specific community is higher. Parents in these communities would therefore be able to more effectively build their community bonds. This in turn promotes the children’s awareness of their rights and responsibilities within the community.

Homeownership, economic status, and community bonds work concomitantly with resulting individual factors as an indicator of the likelihood to enter further education. Being part of a community where most parents own homes, for example, encourage children to forge community bonds of their own among their neighborhood peers. This results in a sense of self that is constructed around the expectations of community members for their future. If most of one’s peer group members expect to enter tertiary education, for example, it would encourage the individual to hold similar aspirations.

Also, growing up in a community where the wealth level is high and homeownership common, creates a person who wishes to perpetuate this lifestyle. To achieve this, higher education is required and therefore accepted as the norm. In other words, the implicit message of parents to children is that certain actions and choices promote certain results. Homeownership for example requires working towards specific aspirations rather than aiming for immediate gratification (Taylor, 2009), which erodes wealth. It is a specific value-framework that children develop as a result of the parental home in which they are raised.

Higher education is a long-term aspiration with long-term results. So is homeownership. By association, parents who are homeowners therefore communicate to their children a sense that long-term goals, such as successful education, is vital to success in life. This tendency will then incline the children involved towards higher education and the long-term fruit of such labor.

In addition, Taylor also relates self-esteem and self-efficacy to higher education. Academic resilience and success are directly related to self-esteem and competency. Homeownership tends to contribute to a person’s self-esteem. It creates the sense of being associated with material value that is the result of long-term investment. Parents communicate this sense of self-efficacy and — esteem to their children, which also becomes clear when investigating children from families who are financially less privileged than those who own their own homes.

One such study has been conducted by Mistry et al. (2009). The authors focus on the model of Family Economic stress, and how this influences the developmental outcomes for children. According to the research, the economic hardship a family suffers influences a number of factors, which in turn influence the educational outcomes within such families. In other words, the sense of community, life goals, self-respect, and other related factors mentioned above are influenced as much by economic hardship as they are by economic well-being.

Again, this extends beyond the most obviously material outcome of children receiving a lower quality of education as a result of a lack of funding, although this is one of the major contributing factors. Children from families who suffer economically are indeed less likely to enter private schools or tertiary education, mainly as a result of material shortcoming. Other factors are however also influenced, and are potentially more serious in terms of their influence on the growth and development of children, and how these relate to the ability of such youngsters to function in the world as adults.

Factors such as perceived economic pressure, emotional distress, marital relations, and parenting practices are some of the influences that affect the development and education of children. When parents suffer economic stress, they are more likely than not to communicate such stress to their children, whether consciously or not. This stress influences the relationship between parents and children in such a way that the economic situation tends to become the focus of concern. Children who need equipment for school or sports for example are deprived of these necessities by a lack of funding to supply them. This creates a very negative atmosphere around education and its accessibility. Even if children were to grow up and receive bursaries or other types of monetary input towards tertiary education, the attitudes cultivated in this way during their young years are likely to deter them from successfully completing a tertiary degree.

This negativity can then be related to the perception of family economic strain and the resulting effect upon educational development. The stress created by economic strain within the family for example translates to emotional stress, which makes it difficult to perform academically. Parents who are stressed by their financial circumstances tend to be unable to regulate their children’s focus and discipline in terms of their studies. Furthermore, in contrast to their homeowning counterparts, the children in such families tend to be less disciplined in terms of their social and financial behavior. Because of the lack of resources, any incoming funding is used towards satisfying immediate needs. Hence no focus towards long-term goals or a concrete value system is developed.

The value system ruling such families tend to be economically driven; finding whatever source of income to provide subsistence for the survival of the family. Factors such as job satisfaction and long-term savings are luxuries that enjoy only secondary importance. This tends to be a cycle that repeats itself over generations.

Specifically, Mistry et al. (2009) applied the Family Economic Stress Model to a sample of Chinese-American families. The authors found a strong correlation between family economic stress and the level of education found within these families. One interesting element was the finding related to economic strain and its link with depressive symptoms. This was found to be stronger in later adolescence in Chinese-American families.

What is important to recognize here is the fact that children are affected by economic strain in the family from a very early age. Unlike homeowning families, these families tend not to incorporate early educational tools in their children’s lives. This can be the result of either a lack of funding, a lack of access to such resources, or both. This creates a legacy for the rest of these children’s lives.

In adolescence, children form their sense of self in terms of not only their family home, but also in terms of their social environment. To cultivate a sense of meaning in life, some of these children will associate themselves with what they perceive to be the only way out of their financial circumstances. This could lead to criminal activity, and a complete distancing from the educational situation. Lacking any coping mechanisms could lead others to develop depressive and other mental difficulties, which also influence the academic abilities of the children in question.

In conclusion, studying the impact of economic factors within the family on a child’s education is vitally important if the social and academic development of children are to be improved over their lifetimes. Such improvement will also have a significant impact on the overall economic well-being of the country, as mental illness and criminal activity will be reduced when academic performance and opportunity are improved for the children from the families concerned.

There is no doubt that the economic situation within a family influences the academic outcomes for the children in such a family. This is influenced by the parental educational level, the availability of funding for educational tools, excellent schools, as well as tertiary education. For families from a high level of economic well-being, the educational level also tends to be high. For lower-income families, the strain translates itself to the entire family situation. The relationship between the parents, as well as between parents and children, can be strained. The attitude towards education can also become negative, as the immediate concern is for procuring the means of survival, rather than the means of success.

It is therefore important to cultivate means of improving the situation for such families, so that the economy of the country can also benefit.


Mistry, R.S., Benner, a.D, Tan, C.S. And Kim, S.Y. (2009). Family Economic Stress and Academic Well-Being Among Chinese-American Youth: The Influence of Adolescents’ Perceptions of Economic Strain. Journal of Family Psychology, June, Vol. 23, No. 3. Retrieved from:

North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. (2000). Socioeconomic Status. Learning Point Associates. Retrieved from:

Taylor, H.H. (2009). The Reproduction of Class Inequality: Relationships between the Anglo-American Economic Model, Homeownership, and Higher Education. Undergraduate Research Journal for the Human Sciences, Vol. 9. Retrieved from:

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