Family Investments in Education during Periods of Economic Uncertainty: Evidence from the Great Recession

Sabino Kornrich
Sociological Perspectives

At the beginning of the Great Recession, household spending on education across the income distribution was highly unequal. We examined how different income groups altered their spending on education for children under 18 during this economic crisis. As national and local economic conditions deteriorated during the recession, the difference in odds that a high-income household spent on education relative to a low-income family increased by 20 percent, and the difference in the amounts that high-income families spent on education relative to low-income families also increased by 20 percent. As state unemployment rates climbed and consumer confidence fell, high-income families’ educational spending increased relative to low-income families’ spending. Decreases in local housing prices were also associated with lower spending for low-income families. Given the importance of educational enrichment for children’s learning outcomes, increasing inequality in families’ educational investments during the Great Recession may contribute to future educational and social inequality.