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This Just In: Hungry Students do Worse on Standardized Tests…

September 23, 2017

In an unsurprising finding reported on an NPR Morning Edition segment by Mary Louise Kelly, researchers in South Carolina discovered that students who do not have sufficient food at home do worse on standardized tests than students who come from homes were food is more plentiful. Researcher Orgul Ozturk, an economist at the University of South Carolina, along with her colleagues, Chad Cotti, and John Gordanier found that “…children who come from families that are several weeks removed from receiving their food-stamp benefits perform worse on an important math exam.” 

In the segment, Ms. Ozturk explained how the distribution mechanism for food stamps in South Carolina enabled her to create a means of determining a clear link between the impact of food scarcity on mathematics test results. But as host Mary Louise Kelly noted, the stress created by the lack of food might also contribute to the stress a student feels in addition to the empty stomachs, an effect Ms. Ozturk acknowledged:

We know that there’s a relationship between food stamps and math performance. We don’t know specifically if it’s about food or just because the family as a whole is stressed and the kids in some ways are reacting to that stress.

The ultimate take-away from these findings might be to increase the frequency of food stamp distribution since that monthly distributions of food stamps leads to a period at the end of each month where food is scarce and, in turn, student performance is diminished…. or it might be that the amount allocated for food stamps is insufficient. One thing IS clear, though: hungry children do worse on tests than children with full bellies.

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