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Does household income affect children’s outcomes? A systematic review of the evidence

Cooper, Kerris and Stewart, Kitty ORCID: 0000-0001-7744-8741 (2020) Does household income affect children’s outcomes? A systematic review of the evidence. Child Indicators Research. ISSN 1874-897X

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Identification Number: 10.1007/s12187-020-09782-0


There is abundant evidence that children in low income households do less well than their peers on a range of developmental outcomes. However, there is continuing uncertainty about how far money itself matters, and how far associations simply reflect other, unobserved, differences between richer and poorer families. The authors conducted a systematic review of studies using methods that lend themselves to causal interpretation. To be included, studies had to use Randomised Controlled Trials, quasi-experiments or fixed effect-style techniques on longitudinal data. The results lend strong support to the hypothesis that household income has a positive causal effect on children’s outcomes, including their cognitive and social-behavioural development and their health, particularly in households with low income to begin with. There is also clear evidence of a positive causal effect of income on ‘intermediate outcomes’ that are important for children’s development, including maternal mental health, parenting and the home environment. The review also makes a methodological contribution, identifying that effects tend to be larger in experimental and quasi-experimental studies than in fixed effect approaches. This finding has implications for our ability to generalise from observational studies.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2020 The Authors
Divisions: Social Policy
Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Date Deposited: 20 Oct 2020 10:48
Last Modified: 23 May 2024 18:15

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