The Atlantic interviewed Dr. Rob Fischer, co-director of the Poverty Center, for “How a House Can Shape a Child’s Future” on the Center’s recent study on the effects housing conditions have on academic performance. The report, Leveraging Integrated Data Systems to Examine the Effect of Housing and Neighborhood Conditions on Kindergarten Readiness – co-authored by Fischer with Claudia Coulton, Francisca Richter, Seok Joo Kim, and Youngmin Cho – compared literacy scores of thousands of Cleveland kindergartners with assessments on their housing. Findings showed a relationship between the amount of time children lived in tax delinquent, foreclosed, and speculator owned housing with kindergarten readiness.
Fischer told The Atlantic he believes the data indicates a need for public policy to look beyond only ending family homelessness and also examine housing conditions. “The discussion also needs to include getting people into better housing, instead of just being satisfied that they have an address.”
Atlantic applauded the scope of the the Poverty Center study which tracked all children entering kindergarten in the city’s public schools. However, Fischer pointed out that obtaining data from Cleveland’s private and charter schools as well as scores from tests beyond literacy would improve understanding the relationship between housing conditions and academic readiness.
One of the worst conditions arising from bad housing can be exposure to lead paint as about 40 percent of Cleveland kindergartners have tested positive for lead poisoning sometime in their lives. Dr. Fischer believes the easiest action cities can take to improve the lives of these children is to limit their exposure to housing with lead paint. Other studies conducted by the Poverty Center and other agencies have repeatedly shown the damage lead poisoning can have the brain development of children. “Together, it is devastating to see their effects,” Fischer said on the serious disadvantages the combination of lead poisoning and bad housing will give in a child’s early life which can continue to create problems further down the road.