What is the Enrichment Gap?

Last week, we talked about the rising cost of childcare during the summer months. Between day camps, youth sports, lessons, and more, it costs a family in the US about 20% of their summer income to keep their kids engaged while they’re out of school.

That being said, the reason families across the country are willing to shell out serious cash for these enrichment programs is because there are real benefits for our kids. Youth sports build hard-to-teach life skills like commitment and confidence, music and arts programs help boost critical thinking ability, and trips to museums help accelerate academic progress.

But what happens to the children whose families can’t afford these enrichment programs?

According to a growing body of research from institutions including the Harvard Kennedy School, the Fordham Institute, and the Brookings Institution, there is a growing “Enrichment Gap” in the United States.

What is the Enrichment Gap?

While enrichment spending (camps, sports, arts, lessons, etc.) among the top decile of families in the US has steadily increased, the spending on the same types of programs by the bottom decile of families has remained flat, or in some cases even decreased.

The gap comes to the forefront during the summer months in particular.

While upper class children have their schedules filled with piano lessons, day camps, and sports leagues, children from lower class families are forced to spend far more time alone (with both their parents working full-time) and in charge of their own time. As a result, these children miss out on crucial academic, social, and emotional learning by not being involved in enrichment programs.

Take a look at youth sports participation rates in relation to the education level of their parents (a proxy for income) as an example:

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Children whose parents have a bachelor’s degree or higher are twice as likely as children whose parents didn’t attend college to be involved in sports.

How do we close the Enrichment Gap?

There are programs ranging from reading scholarships to enrichment allowances that are designed to help offload some of the financial burden of enrichment programs from low income families. However, many of the programs are still in the proposal phase and are inaccessible to families who need the support now.

That’s where Finli comes in.

Finli allows friends and relatives to directly contribute to a family’s immediate child care-related expenses, including enrichment programs. Whether it’s karate class, science camp, or violin lessons, Finli can help families keep their children involved in these impactful programs during the summer (and year-round).

Lori Shao