Educational Policy: Afterschool Opportunities for Children and Youth From Low-Income Families
School-based and school-linked afterschool programs and other out-of-school-time programs present an opportunity to address a range of child and youth development needs that are unmet by schools and other local institutions. Children need opportunities for academic and cultural enrichment and safe spaces for physical activity, play, and socializing that may not be otherwise available to them. Well-designed afterschool programs that are responsive to community needs have the potential to equalize access to these opportunities and improve the quality of out-of-school time for children and youth of diverse backgrounds.
A policy brief conducted by Berkeley Policy Associates with support from Learning Point Associates examines the goals of afterschool programming and the impact of afterschool programs on academics and development for low-income youths as well as provides research-based recommendations.
A limitation of many of the studies referenced in the policy brief is that the studies do not explicitly evaluate program impacts for disadvantaged youths and children. Since almost all the programs under study are designed to target disadvantaged youth and children, it is usually implicit that the outcomes reported apply to those populations. However, several correlational studies explored in the brief do take family income into account when examining the differential utilization and effects of afterschool programs. For example, Posner and Vandell (1994) reported that based on a sample of 219 children recruited from schools in low-income neighborhoods, children attending afterschool programs had better grades, better conduct in school, better peer relations, and better emotional adjustment than those in informal care or self-care. The authors contrasted this finding with findings from earlier studies that focused on children attending schools in middle-class neighborhoods.
Studies and research provide support for the idea that afterschool programs for students from low-income families compensate for these students' limited access to extracurricular and enrichment activities. Children from low-income families who live in unsafe neighborhoods realize additional benefits from programs that provide safe spaces and adult supervision. A potential gain in academic achievement is only one of a variety of possible benefits stemming from programs that provide healthy alternatives to long hours of self-care or unsupervised activity. More well-designed research linking specific program attributes to outcomes is needed to promote a better understanding of these benefits. To access the entire report, download What Do We Know About Afterschool Opportunities for Children and Youth From Low-Income Families? Where Should We Go From Here? (Adobe® Reader® PDF 286 KB).
Learning Point Associates has compiled the following resources dedicated to informing and advancing the critical work of afterschool programming and policy:
U.S. Department of Education: Afterschool
Learning Point Associates: Afterschool Programming
National AfterSchool Association
National Youth Development Information Center
The After School Project
Coalition for Community Schools
The Forum for Youth Investment
National Community Education Association
Posner, J. K., & Vandell, D. L. (1994). Low-income children's after-school care: Are there beneficial effects of after-school programs? Child Development, 65(2), 440–456.