The English version will be available soon. You can read the Hebrew version of this resarch here
The socioeconomic background of families in general, and family income in particular, are factors that exert a major impact on child development in many areas, especially during the first years of life. Many studies have shown that a child’s initial thousand days —from the beginning of the mother’s pregnancy and until the child reaches age two — are the most crucial period for child development in terms of shaping the course of their life. This study examines the effect of family income through the lives of children, beginning in the year prior to their birth and until the age of 11, on their academic achievements in primary school.
The study was based on a database of the Central Bureau of Statistics for those born in Israel between 2000 and 2002 and 2004 to 2005. It includes information on family income from work for each year of the child’s life, family size, parents’ education, gender, sector, and birth weight; the data is from the beginning of the mother’s pregnancy and until the child reaches age 11. At this age, children typically take the Meitzav exams (a standardized measure of academic performance) in Grade 5.
The research findings show that family income during the initial thousand days of a child’s life, from the onset of the mother’s pregnancy and until the child reaches the age of two, has long-term effects on their academic achievements in primary school. Belonging to the bottom quintile in the income distribution in the first thousand days of life has a negative and statistically significant effect on the achievements on the Meitzav exams — math, science, English (as a second language), and language arts (Hebrew mother-tongue) — while statistically controlling for family income in later periods of life and other socio demographic variables as noted. In contrast, belonging to the top quintile in the income distribution in this critical initial period of life shows a positive and statistically significant correlation with higher academic achievements on the Meitzav exams. The family income at older ages usually does not have such an effect, except in the years close to the exams (ages 10 to 11).
Compared to other OECD countries, in Israel there are large income disparities in the population, especially between those with high incomes and those at the bottom of the income distribution. This also means that economically stronger population groups differ from the rest of the population in the educational achievements of their children. This group is able to support its children better thanks to its additional resources, which can provide mother and baby with high-quality nutrition, medical and diagnostic care, participation in high-quality private preschool settings, and so on.
The study validates two well-known claims from the academic literature. First, that poverty experienced at young ages in life has negative and statistically significant effects on later performance. Second, that when the gaps between upper socioeconomic classes and the rest of the population are very wide, as is the case in Israel, members of the stronger classes have an advantage in their future academic performance as well. Especially in Israel, it is important to consider this, since economic inequality and relative poverty rates among children are considerably higher than in other developed countries.
The study corroborates the claim that family income during the initial thousand days of life has a significant effect on future academic achievements.