For more than 1.2 million children heading back to school in Virginia this fall, that school experience is going to look very different. What has not changed, however, is the important link between where families live and children’s educational outcomes. And as more learning will be taking place remotely this year, children’s home environments and living situations will be even more important for supporting academic success
Why Does Housing Matter for Education?
When families have access to stable, affordable housing in high-quality neighborhoods, children do better in school. What exactly is the link between stable, high-quality housing and academic success?
First, where a child lives plays a tremendously important role in predicting the quality of the school they attends and their educational achievement. The fact that home prices are higher in neighborhoods with quality public schools is a testament to the value that families place on high-quality education. But families that cannot afford housing in these high-quality school districts often face worse educational opportunities.
Second, when a family has stable housing it means they move less. Residential moves often lead to interruptions in instruction, excessive absenteeism, chaotic household environments not conducive to studying, stress, and disruptions of peer networks. Research has shown that residential moves—especially moves that are frequent or during key education time periods—can have a significant negative impact on school performance.
When students move in and out of school, there are also disruptions for the entire class. In fact, research has demonstrated that all schoolchildren benefit when student turnover is low.
Third, there is also a link between housing overcrowding and reduced academic performance for children. Living in crowded conditions can be stressful and can lead to behavior and attention problems among children. Overcrowding may increase noise and chaos that interfere with children’s studies. Or, the problem could simply be a lack of space to sit down and do homework.
Overcrowding can be a particularly problematic situation for children who will be attending virtual school this year and will need a place not just to do homework, but also to listen to lectures, participate in classroom discussions, and collaborate on class work.
Finally, homeownership can support good education outcomes for children because homeownership can promote stability and ties to a community. In addition, the predictability of a fixed monthly mortgage payment (rather than a rent payment that can increase) provides more certainty around family finances, which leads to less stress and more opportunities to learn.
What Can REALTORS® Do to Promote Good Educational Outcomes for Kids?
The upcoming school year will bring a number of challenges to families and children. Access to quality education is critically important for the success of children from all backgrounds. There are many ways individual REALTORS® or a local REALTOR® associations can help families and children have greater access to schools that support their development and well-being.
- REALTORS® can work with clients to help find homes that allow space for virtual learning and working from home. Offering creative ideas for using space in a home can help families picture a successful learning environment.
- REALTORS® can ensure that their clients are not steered to one neighborhood or another so that all potential homebuyers have an opportunity to purchase a home in a neighborhood with high-quality schools.
- REALTORS® and local associations can support local policies that responsibly promote a range of housing options in neighborhoods with good schools.
- REALTORS® are often front and center working in their local communities. The virtual school year offers opportunities for individual REALTORS® to contribute through online tutoring, volunteering to help distribute school lunches, and being a mentor to children.