Back to School with Habitat Chicago


School’s back in session and we’re feeling inspired to dawn our academic caps once again. We did our homework and here’s our summary of a critical topic for the vitality of our city: living in a decent, stable, affordable home in a healthy neighborhood matters when it comes to academic achievement and school quality.


Affordable, stable, and decent. That’s the housing we’re after at Habitat Chicago and these are more than randomly selected adjectives. Each of these significantly influences a child’s ability to succeed in school. Here are just a few examples:

  • Affordable: When housing is affordable, families are able to (and do!) spend more on child enrichment. For example: families who spend 30% of their incomes on housing spend $75 more per year on enrichment programs for each of their children than families who use 50% of their income to cover housing.

  • Stable: Any move between the ages of 6 and 10, particularly for children in low-income families, can reduce educational attainment (as well as adulthood salary). In fact, any move during childhood was associated with a half-year loss in educational attainment.

  • Decent: Prolonged exposure to deteriorated housing units is correlated with lower kindergarten readiness scores.


And where you live matters, too. 

  • Lowincome households with children are more likely than other households to live near schools ranked in the bottom 10th percentile for math and English proficiency. And options to send children to schools outside of their neighborhood are often too costly for families to sustain.

  • This issue extends into adulthood, as well. A 2016 study found that participants living in neighborhoods with lower levels of educational attainment, higher rates of poverty, and higher rates of violent crime earned college credits more slowly than counterparts in better advantaged neighborhoods.

  • The relationship between neighborhood and school quality is reciprocal: improvements in school performance improves neighborhood conditions. How Housing Matters reports that an improvement of one standard deviation in a school’s test scores is correlated with a 2.5% increase in the amount spent on residential investments and a 1.8% increase in housing values.


In sum, housing and education are inextricably linked. We cannot address one without the other and that is why access to well-performing schools is an essential factor in our neighborhood investments. For example, West Pullman boasts Metcalfe Elementary, a CPS Level 1+ School, and it is just a 10 minute walk from our current new home construction site.


What can you do to ensure every child has the chance to thrive? Speak with your elected officials about why investments in affordable housing and neighborhood developments are a necessity.

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