Research suggests that children of homeowners have better developmental outcomes than children of renters. However, most studies have investigated this relationship using samples with a wide range of socioeconomic status (SES), making it difficult isolate the unique effect of homeownership on child outcomes from the overall benefit of higher SES. Moreover, the potential benefits of homeownership for children from low- and middle-income (LMI) families are not well examined. Using a longitudinal sample of LMI households, this study examines the effect of LMI homeownership on children's behavioral outcomes. Given the current housing and economic crises, this study is timely with important implications for social work research and practice as a large proportion of social work clients are affected by these crises.
We analyze five waves of data from the Community Advantage Program (CAP), a quasi-experimental longitudinal study that has collected data on LMI households annually since 2003. Families with a child under 18 in the household were included in this sample (N=938). Parental evaluation of the focal child's behavior was collected using a 10-item version of the Positive Behavior Scale (PBS). We analyze the average score for all PBS items (alpha=.84) and 2 subscales, constructed based on existing implementations of the PBS. We tested consistency and reliability using confirmatory factor analysis and Cronbach's Alpha. The social competence scale (alpha=.73) measures parent's perception of their child's happiness and ease in social interaction. The compliance scale (alpha=.75) evaluates observed behaviors including rule adherence and responsiveness to directions. Homeownership trajectory (patterns of change in homeownership status) over the 6 years is used as the key independent variable. Control variables include household and child characteristics. To adjust for clustering in the data, we use generalized linear models (GLM) with robust standard error. Transformations are applied to correct for skewness in outcome variables.
Among LMI households, homeownership trajectory has a significant effect on parents' evaluations of their child's behavior. Using the scale measure for 10 PBS items, we find stable homeownership has a marginally significant positive effect (p<.10) on children's behavior. On the subscale for social competence, homeowners' evaluations of their child do not differ significantly from those of renters. However, models using the subscale designed to capture compliance behaviors show that homeownership is consistently, positively and significantly (p<.01) related to parental evaluation of these behaviors. While the effect as measured by the overall PBS scale is marginal, we find strong effects of homeownership trajectory on the compliance behaviors directly observed by parents.
Our preliminary findings make a meaningful contribution to both social work research and policy by offering insights into the relationship between LMI parental homeownership trajectories and child outcomes. The findings shed light on the importance of a stable home environment for children's behavioral outcomes. We also discuss possible avenues for intervention and ancillary benefits of programs designed to facilitate homeownership for LMI households. In addition, the importance of using longitudinal and quasi-experimental design to pair social work practice with empirical rigorous social research is discussed.