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Study: After-School Access Leaves Low-Income Students at a Disadvantage

Study: Little Access to After-School Activities Disadvantageous for Low-Income Students

A new study finds that low-income students do not have the same access to other after-school activities as their middle-class peers, thus, putting them at an disadvantage later in life.

The study, featured in Voices in Urban Education, examined trends in extracurricular participation among kids in the U.S. from the 1970s until today "through long-term data and conversations with 120 young adults across the country," according to an article on

According to the article, "what the researchers found is, as they note in the article, 'alarming.' Income-based differences in extracurricular participation are on the rise, and these differences greatly affect later outcomes."

"This disparity exacerbates the already-growing income achievement gap that has kept poor children behind in school and later in life," the article said. "While upper- and middle-class students have become more active in school clubs and sports teams over the past four decades, their working-class peers 'have become increasingly disengaged and disconnected,' particularly since their participation rates started plummeting in the '90s, the study found."

The study looks at two children with pseudonyms: Ethan and Nicole. Ethan, who is now a freshman "at an elite college near Austin, Texas", grew up "with supportive middle-class parents who put him in extracurriculars his whole life: Boy Scouts, soccer, track, orchestra." Nicole, who is now a single mother "who works in the kitchen at a three-star hotel making a wage that’s hardly enough to cover food, diapers, and clothes from Goodwill."

"She grew up poor—her father worked as a garbage collector, and her mother as a hotel maid and waitress—in a neighborhood that was so dangerous she couldn’t play outside," the article said. "Instead of hiking trips and and soccer games, Nicole spent her afternoons watching TV at home alone. As a sophomore in high school, after spending her freshman year popping pills with other girls to fit in, Nicole joined the dance team. But that was short-lived: With uniforms and travel for competitions costing $800 annually, she had to quit after a year because her family couldn’t afford it. She eventually wound up pregnant by a man who later became abusive."

Both of these stories, the article said, are based off of real people.

"Ethan is lucky: with his parents’ flexible work schedules, comfortable financial situation, and commitment to his social and intellectual development, his pathway into a middle-class adult life was almost seamless," the researchers write in the article. "But for many other children, the rising costs of sport teams and school clubs, combined with parents’ uncertain work schedules and precarious household budgets, have made extracurricular activities a luxury they can’t afford."

Read the full story and comment below.

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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