To support early childhood development, invest in housing

A growing body of research is demonstrating what we already intuitively know: that our children will have a much brighter future if they begin the journey of life in a decent, affordable home. Investments to improve housing quality and affordability for families with children can help set the stage for success later in life. Alternatively, failure to make these investments can result in lasting damage.

Compared to those living in more stable homes, children who experience residential instability under perform academically, develop weaker vocabulary skills, and engage in more problem behaviors. As they grow older, these children have higher high school dropout rates and achieve less economic success.

The good news is that federal rental assistance programs are a stabilizing force for millions of low-income families. Research shows positive impacts on health, nutrition, academic achievement, and future economic attainment for the children living in these subsidized households. The problem:  As a result of limited funds, only one in four low-income households eligible for federal rental assistance actually receives this help.

As Dr. Megan Sandel of Boston University explains: “Housing can act like a vaccine” for children, providing multiple long-term benefits and producing a high rate of return in the form of stronger health and educational outcomes. In her view, the debate is no longer whether housing matters for children but how much it matters.

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