Socioeconomic Gaps in Children's Summer Experiences: 1999 to 2011


A variety of research studies suggest that the socioeconomic status (SES)-based achievement gap may widen primarily while children are on summer vacation. While high- and low-SES children learn at similar rates during the school year, high-SES children appear to learn significantly more during the summer than do low-SES children, perhaps due to differences in the summer enrichment opportunities available to children of high- and low-SES backgrounds.

However, no studies have used recent data to examine children’s summer activity participation. Nor have any studies examined how high- and low-SES children’s summer activities or learning have changed over time. In this study, I use nationally representative data to examine how socioeconomic gaps in young children’s summer activity participation, as well as the relationships between SES, summer learning, and summer enrichment, have changed in recent decades. I find that parents across the socioeconomic spectrum increased their reported time investments in home literacy and math activities across cohorts. However, socioeconomic gaps in several out-of-home activities widened across cohorts. I discuss implications for future research.