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Missing school could impact kids well into adulthood

Researchers have linked frequent absences with financial problems

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Photo (c) Ralph125 - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from Ohio State University explored the effects that regular absences in school can have on consumers entering adulthood. 

The study revealed a correlation between kids who missed school often and greater difficulties in life in early adulthood. The researchers found that missing school often was linked with poorer educational and financial situations, as well as a lower likelihood of participating in local and national elections. 

“There’s this misconception, especially among parents, that it doesn’t matter as much if kids miss school early on -- that it only becomes important when they get to middle or high school,” said researcher Arya Ansari. “This study shows that those early absences do matter, and in ways that many people don’t consider.” 

Attendance is important

To understand the effect that school attendance can have on kids, the researchers analyzed data from nearly 700 students involved in the Study of Early Childhood and Youth Development. 

The students’ attendance records were tracked over the course of the study. When they reached their early twenties, they completed questionnaires about their lives up to that point. The researchers learned that those who missed more days of school were affected in three main areas: education, finances, and civic engagement. 

“Absenteeism in those early years of school has pretty far-reaching consequences,” said Ansari. “It goes beyond just affecting your education and how well you do in school.” 

Having a solid attendance record in elementary and middle school was associated with better academic outcomes in high school. Compared to those who missed school often, those with better attendance were more likely to continue on to college. 

The researchers also learned that missing so much school translated to poorer financial situations, as these students reported they had difficulties finding jobs and keeping up with their bills. 

Lastly, voting, whether in local or national elections, was nearly five times more likely for students who didn’t miss as much school

“If you start out being disengaged with school, you may end up being less engaged with society more broadly,” said Ansari. “We believe disengagement may be one of the key mechanisms linking early school absences to poorer outcomes in early adulthood.” 

What role does the pandemic play?

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many consumers have had to homeschool their children. 

Though this study didn’t take these unique circumstances into consideration, Ansari explained that these findings emphasize just how important it is for kids to be in school when that becomes possible again. 

“These really are unprecedented times,” Ansari said. “All kids are absent. With that said, the differential access to supports and resources will likely result in even greater variability in outcomes when students return to school after the pandemic. What this work suggests is that we should take absenteeism and its consequences more seriously.” 

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