Childhood eviction and cognitive development: Developmental timing-specific associations in an urban birth cohort

Publication Year


Journal Article

Eviction upends children's lives and exacerbates deprivation; it remains largely unexamined as a determinant of cognitive development. We assess whether children evicted in infancy, early childhood, and middle childhood exhibit lower scores on four cognitive assessments (measuring executive function, mathematical reasoning, written language skills, and vocabulary skills) at age 9. Using linear regression and selection weights, we analyze longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a national, urban birth cohort (N = 1724 for eviction during infancy, 2126 for early childhood, 1979 for middle childhood). These stages of childhood follow the timing of FFCWS′ data collection waves, with “infancy” data collected in the first year of life, “early childhood” in the third and fifth years of life, and “middle childhood” in the ninth year. In adjusted models, children evicted in middle childhood exhibited scores 0.20–0.43 SDs below similar children who were not (depending on the assessment; p-values = 0.004–0.055), the equivalent of as much as a full year of schooling. Point estimates of the association between eviction in infancy and 3/4 cognitive skills at age 9 were also large, but imprecisely estimated (between −0.25 and −0.28 SDs; p-values = 0.053–0.101), while point estimates for eviction in early childhood were near zero and statistically insignificant.

Our large estimates for middle childhood and infancy, compared to earlier residential mobility studies, indicate downwardly mobile moves may exhibit more severe associations with future cognition. Estimates suggest preventing eviction may be a powerful, cost-effective way to safeguard children's cognitive development.

Social Science & Medicine