The Home Front

Politics, culture, and American life — from the family perspective.

The Consequences of Summer


Summer, a time of warm, school-free bliss, has come under fire.

Peter Orszag, former director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Obama administration, recently penned, “How Summer Is Making U.S Kids Dumber and Fatter.” In his article, Orszag makes the case that multiple studies released as far back as 1970 have proven that during the summer, “children return to school one month or more, on average, behind where they were when the previous year ended. Kids also tend to put on weight in the summer two to three times faster than they do during the school year.”

Orzag sites multiple sources for this conclusion. In 1996, Harris Cooper of Duke University and several co-authors revealed research indicating that U.S children experience a “summer fade effect,” which is when “students’ academic skills atrophy during the summer months by an amount equivalent to what they learn in a third of a school year.”

The “summer fade effect” has been researched further by Barbara Heyns, a sociologist at New York University who studied Atlanta schoolchildren in the late 1970’s. Her research indicated that this effect “varies substantially by income and race, and its impact persists even past childhood.”

Solutions to this issue are varied. Orszag personally suggests the solution lies in extending the hours of the school day. Other solutions, such as federal government action, have been proposed.


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