A recent survey conducted by Chance for Children, a nonprofit organization based in Tokyo, has shed light on the significant influence of household income on children’s participation in extracurricular activities. The survey reveals that low-income households face the greatest challenges in providing their children with opportunities outside of school.
The survey, which involved 2,097 parents of elementary school students, was conducted over a two-day period in October 2022. It discovered that nearly 30% of children from households earning less than ¥3,000,000 annually are significantly less likely to engage in extracurricular activities. In comparison, the figure drops to 11.3% for children from households with incomes exceeding ¥6,000,000 per year.
Among households with incomes below ¥3,000,000, economic reasons were cited as the primary factor limiting children’s extracurricular experiences, accounting for 56.3% of respondents. Other factors included a lack of available time (51.5%) and a dearth of activity options in the neighborhood (26.6%). In households with incomes surpassing ¥6,000,000, the lack of available time was identified as the main obstacle to children’s engagement in extracurricular activities, mentioned by 47% of respondents.
Inflation and Intergenerational Factors
The survey also highlighted the impact of inflation on the availability of extracurricular activities. Approximately 30.8% of respondents from households earning less than ¥3,000,000 reported that opportunities for participation had decreased due to inflation. Furthermore, 19.8% expressed expectations of future impact, even if they were not currently affected.
Intergenerational factors were also observed in children’s limited access to extracurricular activities. Parents with an annual income below ¥3,000,000 were 13.7 points more likely to report not engaging in extracurricular activities during their own childhood, compared to those with parents earning ¥6,000,000 or more. Additionally, the extent of parents’ investment in their children’s extracurricular activities was influenced by factors such as educational background, area of residence, and whether the parents themselves had participated in such activities during childhood.
A disparity of approximately 10 percentage points or more was found in the participation rates of children from households earning less than ¥3,000,000 compared to those earning ¥6,000,000 or more in various extracurricular activities. The gaps were particularly noticeable in cultural and artistic activities, outdoor activities, and sports-related activities, with a gap of over 20 percentage points.
Challenges and Emotional Impact
The survey highlighted the financial constraints faced by families, leading to their children being unable to pursue desired extracurricular activities. A parent from Aichi Prefecture shared the difficult reality, stating, “Even if they express a desire to do it, it’s financially impossible for them, so my children themselves have stopped saying anything.” Another single mother from Aomori Prefecture expressed her aspirations for her child’s diverse experiences while acknowledging the financial difficulties of a single-parent household.
These findings underscore the importance of addressing income disparities and providing support for families with limited financial resources, ensuring that all children have equal opportunities to engage in extracurricular activities that contribute to their personal growth and development.