The Benefits of After-School Programs in Low Socioeconomic Settings

While there are many benefits to implementing after-school programs, the most important is ensuring our students’ safety. After-school programs provide a safe space for students after the school day, which is unfortunately hard for many students of low socioeconomic status to find. An after-school program keeps students out of two potentially dangerous situations: the streets and/or an empty house.
Juvenile Crime
            According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention1, “nearly one-fifth (19%) of juvenile violent crimes occur in the 4 hours between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on school days.”
Of course an after-school program would not extinguish juvenile crime completely, but it would provide a safe space for students to socialize with their peers instead of getting into trouble after the school day ends.
Latchkey Children
            Of course students can get in trouble after school, and this is a terrible thing, but one must also remember the students who aren’t getting in trouble after school because they are at home by themselves until a caregiver comes home. Students who come home to an empty house after school are known as latchkey children. According to Dictionary.com2, a latchkey child is “a child who must spend at least part of the day alone and unsupervised, as when the parents are away at work.” According to their website, this term originated in the 1940s because of the key parents provided their children with so they could get into their house after school.
            Needless to say, coming home to an empty house isn’t ideal for anyone, particularly for young people. An after-school program would provide these students with an environment in which they can socialize with their classmates after school. This would also relieve any anxiety a parent might have at leaving their children alone since they would be supervised.
Positive Role Models
            Many children in underprivileged areas lack positive role models, whether it be from lack of nurture, quality time, or from separation from parents. Divorce rates are significantly higher in low socioeconomic areas as are single-parent families.4, 7 After-school programs give students access to positive role models in a controlled environment.
Increase In Academic Performance
            Numerous studies have shown that youth living in poverty have significantly higher risks for academic struggles and a significantly higher drop-out rate. Reports also show that these students are 90% less likely to graduate with a high school degree by the time they are 20. However, students who participated in after-school programs had a much higher chance for academic success. A brief from the Afterschool Alliance noted the following:5
  • The Promising Afterschool Programs Study observed approximately 3,000 students, 85 percent of whom were Latino or African-American, from low-income families attending 35 high-quality afterschool programs across the nation.  The study determined that those who attended high-quality programs regularly over the course of two years saw gains in their standardized math test scores compared to non-participants.  Students regularly participating in the afterschool programs also saw reports of misconduct decrease, and students also shared that they decreased their use of drugs and alcohol.6
  • Evaluations of LA's BEST, an afterschool program serving primarily Latino and African-American students at close to 200 elementary school sites across Los Angeles, CA, found that students participating in the program had higher aspirations concerning finishing school and going to college, improved their school day attendance and were 20 percent less likely than non-participants to drop out of school.7 One study reviewing previous evaluations of the program stated that results, "...suggest that LA's BEST participants continued to have better school attendance even seven years after they left the program." Yet another study of the program revealed that children attending LA's BEST are 30 percent less likely to participate in criminal activities when compared to non-participants, estimating that for every dollar invested in the program, the city saves $2.50 in crime-related costs.8
  • An evaluation of Building Educated Leaders for Life's (BELL) summer learning program aimed at low-income youth in Boston; New York; and Washington, D.C., found that BELL significantly improved their students' reading skills.  Students participating in the program, of which more than 90 percent are African-American or Latino, gained approximately a month's worth of reading skills more than students not participating in BELL.9
Participation Issues
Participation rates of economically disadvantaged youth are very low. The reasons for this are not clear, since the numbers cannot reflect if this is due to a lack of programming in low socioeconomic areas or whether there are larger social and economic factors at work outside of the control of the school system. A survey by Duffey and Johnson in 2002 indicated that higher income, white parents were more satisfied with their children’s after-school programs than many lower income, minority parents.10 This lack of parental satisfaction could also be a cause for lower participation in underprivileged areas.
Among the many concerns of increasing participation in underprivileged areas is the lack of transportation to and from these events or programs. In rural communities, this is an even bigger problem since homes are farther from schools than in urban communities, and many parents rely on the bussing system to provide transportation to and from school. Some families do not own cars and transportation is very expensive, which would be a drain on the financial resources of a program should it try to provide it. Thus, programs that do not require travel would be well considered for low socioeconomic areas, as funding agencies often do not support transportation costs.11
Lack of Funding
            Many programs in low socioeconomic areas are not well funded or, if they are funded, have issues with where the funds are distributed. Attention to not only the actual program itself but also to training of the personnel could be beneficial in increasing the effectiveness of the program.11 This lack of emphasis on program quality and instead to create more after-school programs of lesser quality is defended in a 2001 study by Langford12, yet it creates more programs with less sustainability due to a lack of training. The programs themselves become a drain on financial resources and do not accomplish their original goal of providing quality programs to benefit children and adolescents.
Other General Benefits
            In addition to keeping students safe, creating positive role models, and raising academic performance, after-school programs offer a great deal of other benefits as well, both for low and high-income areas. outlines the things after-school programs can improve on their website:
  • Classroom Behavior
  • Drug Use
  • Physical Activity
  • Dietary Habits
            Even though after-school programs are helpful in many aspects, it must be recognized that they are not a cure-all, and should be a part of a multi-pronged approach to eliminating many of these problems.
Starting Your Own After-School Initiative
            There are many ways to start your own after-school program. Whether it is an outshoot of an existing program or a completely new idea, the resources below can help you in organization, implementation, and funding of your new program. Encourage other teachers and co-workers to help, as well as appealing to the community. A community is a strong resource for any new endeavor, and especially so in this one.


 Teacher Resources

Works Cited
  1. "Juvenile Violent Crime Time-of-day Profiles." Juvenile Violent Crime Time-of-day Profiles. US Department of Justice, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2015. 
  2. "Latchkey Child.", n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.
  3. "Benefits for Youth, Families, & Communities." N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.
  4. Yarrow, Andrew. "Falling Marriage Rates Reveal Economic Fault Lines." February 6, 2015. Accessed December 2, 2015.
  5. "The Importance of Afterschool and Summer Learning Programs in African-American and Latino Communities." Afterschool Alert, no. Issue Brief No. 59 (2013). Accessed December 2, 2015.
  6. Vandell, D., et. al. (2007). Outcomes Linked to High-Quality Afterschool Programs: Longitudinal Findings from the Study of Promising Afterschool Programs. Retrieved from
  7. Huang, D., et. al. (2005). Keeping Kids in School: An LA's BEST Example A Study Examining the Long-Term Impact of LA's BEST on Students' Dropout Rates. National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST), University of California, Los Angeles. Los Angeles, CA. 
  8. Goldschmidt, P. and Huang, D. (2007). The Long-Term Effects of After-School Programming on Educational Adjustment and Juvenile Crime: A Study of the LA's BEST After-School Program. National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST), University of California, Los Angeles. Los Angeles, CA. 
  9. Chaplin, D. and Capizzano, J. (2006).  Impacts of a Summer Learning Program: A Random Assignment Study of Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL).  The Urban Institute.  Washington, D.C.  Retrieved from
  10. Duffett, Ann, and Jean Johnson. All Work and No Play?: Listening to What Kids and Parents Really Want from Out-of-school Time : A Report from Public Agenda. New York, New York: Public Agenda, 2004.
  11. Pittman, Karen, Alicia Wilson-Ahlstrom, and Nicole Yohalem. "After-school for All? Exploring Access and Equity in After-school Programs." Out-of-School Time Policy Commentary, no. Issue #4 (2003).
  12. Langford, Barbara Hanson. State Legislative Investments in School-age Children and Youth. Washington, DC: Finance Project, 2001.