Giving Compass' Take:

• The 'shadow education system'  refers to the cultural events, enriching field trips, or extra art camps/activities that more affluent children get to experience, while children from lower socioeconomic background might miss out on. Research shows that being a part of this shadow education has clear benefits and that a range of students are missing out on completely. 

• How can organizations, philanthropists, and educators collaborate to ensure culturally enriching activities are happening at schools so that this population of students can participate too?

• Read about how some lower-income schools are losing resources and what needs to be done about it. 

More affluent kids are about twice as likely to visit a museum, art gallery, or historical site or see a play or concert over the summer, as compared with their peers from low-income families.

That’s according to a new analysis released this month by the federal government, illustrating disparities in out-of-school experiences, which may be exacerbated by rising income inequality. It also comes as a slew of recent studies which have shown measurable benefits of cultural experiences like attending a play or visiting a museum, including a greater appreciation of art, higher tolerance, and stronger critical thinking skills.

Another study, released last week, points a finger at one potential culprit: rising gaps in income between the wealthiest and poorest households, that may allow some families to afford cultural activities that others can’t. The paper found that in states with greater income inequality, there were also bigger disparities in how much families spent on their kids for things like tutoring, sports, and other enrichment programs.

Nationally those gaps have widened over time. Some scholars have referred to it as the “shadow education system” that higher-income families participate in.

Regardless of the reason, recent research suggests that students are likely to benefit from these sorts of enrichment activities. (Keep in mind this research generally focus on access through school field trips as opposed to family events.)

“It appears that the less prior exposure to culturally enriching experiences students have, the larger the benefit of receiving a school tour of a museum,” wrote researchers Jay Greene, Brian Kisida, and Daniel Bowen in one study. “Disadvantaged students need their schools to take them on enriching field trips if they are likely to have these experiences at all.”

Read the full article about shadow education system by Matt Barnum at Chalkbeat