Willingham and D. (2012).
Willingham, D. (2012). (online) Why Does Family Wealth Affect Learning, Pp. 1-7.
Take your impression from this article and build your family finance & educational planning systems around it.
This article was contributed by James D. Willingham, PhD (thedrewsfamilywealthmethodology.com), Senior Fellow at the Economic Policy Institute and Co-Author of The Economists’ Family Wealth Handbook.
The economic trends, family dynamics, and family wealth play major roles in preventing or promoting learning within the family, which directly correlates with overall adult economic prosperity. As we’ve seen since the 1970s, family wealth serves as a leverage point for self-efficacy and achievement. But while it is helpful to allocate resources to help children excel academically, it is important to understand that family incomes and education levels within the family also affect the quality of those resources, and how they are allocated.
What Does it Mean for Families?
Once policymakers, educators, and researchers become aware of what drives the successful adoption of a teaching philosophy, the degree to which those values and practices can be emphasized and adapted to meet the needs of different classes of students remains undetermined. However, schools can take a “one size fits all” approach to motivating students in new ways, such as by translating their interests into participation in learning activities or assigning them powerful discipline-specific tasks that challenge them intellectually and ultimately increase their assessment effectiveness.
As we come to realize that learning in any field or occupation as a family requires investing time and financial resources, the importance of coordinating individuals’ education objectives across school years and contexts will increase. When a family has time and resources, it is possible to engage not only children from preschool to the older grades, but even other family members, as appropriate. Providing resources that boost self-efficacy, such as financial and moral capital, engages family members to work on being wise stewards of one’s resources.
Family Wealth as an Influencer of Educational Preparation
Until now, our research has focused on child and family issues, not so much family income and education levels within households, which are both relatively low among American families. As it turns out, the participation of families’ income and education as a factor in the child’s experience on how effective they are as a person and in a job are crucial to children’s learning in and outside the classroom, and ultimately to whether they will stay in school to finish college or complete a professional degree or training. And this evidence suggests that family wealth contributes to learning, including academic achievement, in ways that are independent of the children’s educational background.
To help families develop and support the skills needed to successfully navigate the rigors of family life and adult education, families can use the following examples, ideally with their children.
Provide choices that are meaningful and valuable to the children and their family. Putting education first, rather than school first, and providing a choice in how the child raises their own expectations and competencies is a powerful approach that helps families to take a much stronger role in designing and managing education. Incorporating an education path that matches the children’s interests and work ethic to an educational environment that nurtures and accommodates can help family members and children both progress more effectively towards their educational goals.
Provide resources that stretch and enable the family’s learning capacity. Parents have enormous capacities for investing resources to have children enjoy personal and intellectual experiences that are valuable to them. When resources are sufficient, parents often take time out of their own lives to teach and mentor their children. Beyond reading and writing, parents can explore subjects such as science, mathematics, and technology, as well as government, law, and ethics, and develop a children’s interest in justice and a deep curiosity about how the world works.
Support the acquisition of soft skills, which include self-control, tolerance, and delayed gratification. An inclination toward prioritizing self-sufficiency may bias the balance between self-effort and time invested in learning. Parents can both understand their children’s needs and show them how to meet them.
Support the development of curiosity, which is a cornerstone of advancement in all areas of life. Childhood is the foundation for school, as well as a time when children are learning to ask questions and make connections. Parents can help their children pursue areas of interest through mentoring and networks, and support other family members in developing their own curiosity.