For the sake of the children? A longitudinal analysis of residential relocations and school performance of Australian children
Janeen Baxter, University of Queensland
Sergi Vidal, University of Queensland
The family and residential environments are critical to children’s wellbeing and, hence, moving home can affect children’s developmental outcomes. In this research, we study the associations between residential relocations and academic performance in the Australian context using longitudinal data of a representative sample of 3,481 children born in the late 1990’s from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). We examine the impact of residential relocations from infancy to middle childhood – paying special attention to the distance, frequency and developmental age-stage of relocations – on academic test scores from the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) of 3rd, 5th and 7th graders using panel regression models (i.e. hybrid models and random coefficients models). Our results confirm findings of modest associations from previous research of the US context. Frequent residential mobility relates to poor academic performance, but the association is largely due to family and home circumstances. After controlling for a number of predictors, we find that moderate levels of residential mobility, particularly relocations to a different Local Government Area, associate with improvements in academic performance over time. Further, our multivariate results also show a modest negative effect of relocations occurring at about the time of school entry (i.e. ages 4/5 to 6/7). We conclude that the associations between residential change and cognitive development are nuanced by the circumstances and contexts of childhood relocations.