Economic insecurity, a phenomenon characterized primarily by food and housing insecurity, is a growing epidemic in the United States. This epidemic is especially prevalent in California, a state with one of the highest costs of living compared to other states.
Often, economic insecurities such as food or housing insecurity can lead to added strain on students. Studies have indicated that students who experience food and/or housing insecurity tend to struggle more and have a harder time achieving success. We sought to understand the way students in San Diego State University conceptualized the idea that the aforementioned insecurities could lead to poorer student success and we wanted to investigate what they perceived the success of students experiencing food or housing insecurity could be and the effectiveness of San Diego State University’s interventions for those crises. We hypothesized that food and housing insecurity may be prevalent in San Diego State University, and they would ultimately have a large effect on student success. We utilized a convenience sample of 309 people who were on San Diego State University’s campus, and used surveys to ascertain their experiences with food and housing insecurity, and their perceptions of its effect. Our results indicated that our hypothesis was incorrect.
Introduction Housing and food insecurity are topics of great discussion in today’s vastly growing and quickly changing society. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, food insecurity is defined as households not having constant and complete access to a variety of nutritious foods in order for them to live active and healthy lifestyles (“Key Statistics and Graphics”, 2016). In 2016, approximately 12.
3% of households in the United States were categorized as food insecure (“Key Statistics and Graphics”, 2016). In California, 12.4 percent of the population experiences food insecurity (“Hunger Fact Sheet”, 2017). Housing insecurity is defined as people having to reside in conditions that are either not habitable or not meant for long-term habitation such as emergency shelters or transitional housing (“Changes in the HUD”, 2016).
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there were 564,708 people experiencing housing insecurity in the United States in 2015, with 31% of them living in uninhabitable places such as on the streets or buildings that are no longer in use (“The State of Homelessness”, 2016). The state of California has a homeless population of about 118,000 people according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (“Fact Sheet”, 2015). California’s total population of people experiencing housing insecurity accounts for 22% of homelessness and housing insecurity within the nation (“Fact Sheet”, 2015).
College students are especially at risk of economic insecurity due to rising costs of tuition (Goldrick-Rab, 2016). Studies also have shown that economic difficulties such as housing or food insecurity can often cause great strain on the academic success of college students (Bruenig et al, 2017). Studies performed by researchers from the University of Wisconsin have indicated that students who experience food insecurity often tend to achieve poorer academic outcomes due to the stress induced by their insecurity (Bruening et al, 2017).
Student success, according to San Diego State University’s policies, is defined as undergraduate students achieving and maintaining an average grade of C (2.0) in all of their attempted undergraduate course work or all their coursework attempted and completed at San Diego State (“General Catalog”, 2017). For graduate students, student success is defined as maintaining a 2.85 grade point average (“General Catalog”, 2017). Due to the nuances involved with the effect of food and housing insecurity on student success, we hypothesized that housing and food insecurity may be prevalent in San Diego State University, and that they would have significant effect on student success.MethodSample Our sample was a convenience sample of 309 individuals.
Our sampling frame consisted of people who were on campus in San Diego State University in late November of 2017. ProcedureWe approached people on campus who did not look busy, and we asked them to fill out a 19 question survey. The survey was anonymous, self-administered, and included open-ended and multiple choice questions and we did not offer the respondents any compensation. Measures Our study was a correlational study, where we sought to investigate if there was a relationship between food and housing insecurity and student success. We utilized surveys to collect our data from people on the SDSU campus. The survey contained write-in questions about the individual’s age, and gender, as well as multiple choice questions regarding class standing and grade point average (GPA).
The survey also contained questions modeled in likert scale, asking the survey-takers 2 to 3 questions about their experiences with food and housing insecurity. In addition, there were questions included about their perception of what percentage of students attending San Diego State University experience housing or food insecurity as well as questions pertaining to their perceptions of the effectiveness of San Diego State University’s interventions for housing and food insecurity. For the purposes of this study, food insecurity was operationalized as individuals not being able to access nutritious food to meet the dietary needs required for an active and healthy lifestyle. Housing insecurity was defined as individuals who lived in locations that were not fit for human habitation such as on the streets or in housing systems that were not meant for long-term use such as shelters or transitional housing. Student success was defined as undergraduate students maintaining a 2.0 GPA as well as graduate students maintaining a 2.
85 GPA in all their coursework completed while they are enrolled in San Diego State University. All of our definitions are in compliance with standards kept by leading researchers and governing bodies within our topics of research.Data AnalysisAnalyses consisted of descriptive statistics to characterize general attributes of the sample and inferential statistics (ANOVA/chi-square) to determine presence of group differences. Results are reported as not significant or significant with significant being defined as a p-value of less than or equal to .05.ResultsThe survey included 97 men, 203 women, and 4 people who categorized themselves as other than men or women. One person characterized themself as gender non-conforming, and three others characterized themselves as bisexual. The genders of the respondents are represented percentage-wise on Pie Chart 1 and numerically on Chart 1.
The ages of the individuals that were surveyed were between 18 to 48 years old, and the mean age was 23.3 years old. There were 22 freshmen, 30 sophomores, 148 juniors, 93 seniors, 8 graduate students, 2 individuals who classified themselves as other students, and 3 people who indicated that they were not students of San Diego State University represented in this survey. For this study, the independent variables were whether or not the respondents experienced housing or food insecurity, and the dependent variable was the mean GPA of the respondents. The results of the survey indicate that 88 individuals claimed to have experienced food insecurity last semester while 213 indicated that they did not experience food insecurity. 1 person indicated that they were uncertain if they had experienced food insecurity and 7 individuals did not respond to this question.
In regard to housing insecurity, 27 individuals responded that they experienced housing insecurity last semester, whereas 273 individuals responded that they had not experienced housing insecurity last semester. 1 person indicated that they were uncertain, and 8 people failed to respond to this question. The mean past semester GPA of the respondents was found to be 3.29, with a standard deviation of 0.49. The lowest recorded GPA was 0.
00, while the highest GPA was 4.3. Of the 309 individuals who were surveyed, 14 did not respond to this question. For the 213 individuals who claimed they did not experience food insecurity, their mean GPA was 3.36, and their lowest reported GPA was 2.58. For the 88 individuals who claimed that they had experienced food insecurity last semester, their mean GPA was 3.
18, and their lowest reported GPA was 2.33. For the 273 individuals who indicated that they did not experience housing insecurity, their mean GPA was found to be 3.291, and their lowest reported GPA was 2.
52. For the 27 individuals who had responded that they had experienced housing insecurity last semester, their mean GPA was 3.294 and their lowest reported GPA was 2.37. These statistics are represented on Bar Graph 1.
Descriptive statistics performed using the data we collected indicates that the results of our investigations into the relationships of food and housing insecurity and academic success were found to be insignificant, with a p-value greater than 0.05. The results of the significance tests are listed under Results of Significance Test on page 14. There appears to be no significant difference between the GPAs of the respondents who did not experience food or housing insecurity versus the respondents who did. DiscussionThe results were found to be insignificant, and our hypothesis, that food and housing insecurity were present in San Diego State University and that they had a noticeable effect on the academic success of students, was proven to be incorrect. Despite the presence of both insecurities in the population, analysis of the data displayed that there was no significant difference in the GPAs of the students who experienced either food or housing insecurity and the students who reported that they did not.
These findings do not seem to fit within the narrative that is commonly found in other research. Studies have previously determined that food and housing insecurity did have negative effects on the academic outcomes of the the students affected by those phenomena (Bruening et al, 2017). One such study demonstrated that students who reported that they were undergoing food insecurity were 22% less likely to earn GPAs between 3.5 to 4.0 (Maroto et al, 2015). It is interesting to see that the results of our survey did not yield similar results to those of other studies. Alternative Explanations An alternative explanation for our results could be that students who experience food or housing insecurity might be receiving financial aid so they can continue to attend school.
Financial aid programs often require its recipients to maintain a certain GPA in order to qualify for aid. This could perhaps be a reason for our findings, which illustrate that there is no significant difference between the GPAs of students who are experiencing food or housing insecurity and those who are not experiencing food or housing insecurity. Limitations A possible limitation of our study is that we utilized a convenience sample instead of a random sample. Because it is a convenience sample, it could be difficult to generalize our results to the greater population of San Diego State University as a whole.
The sample was also rather small at only 309 individuals despite the fact that 33, 917 people are currently enrolled in San Diego State University (“Fast Facts”, n.d.).
Additionally, our surveys were self-reported. This could allow individuals to misrepresent themselves in order to be more socially accepted. Perhaps some individuals did not feel comfortable revealing themselves to have experienced food or housing insecurity because there is often social stigma attached to such labels (Bruening et al, 2016). In addition, not all of the respondents were students of San Diego State University.
This could indicate that some of the survey results may not apply to our intended population. Furthermore, our survey was conducted towards the end of November, right before Thanksgiving break, a period of time when many students have often left campus to return to their homes or to go on vacations. This could potentially have affected the number of students we were able to survey. A final limitation could be that we had individuals who did not respond to all of the questions. There were missing answers on the surveys we conducted and those missing answers could potentially have shifted the results.StrengthsOne strength of our study is we worked to diligently to be inclusive to people of all genders.
By allowing people to write in their own genders, we were able to create a space for them within our research. Another strength is that our survey was very simple and easy to understand. It only has 19 questions and it takes between 5 to 7 minutes to complete. Summary Overall, our study’s hypothesis was proven to be incorrect and our results indicated that there was no significant relationship between food and housing insecurity and the success of college students attending San Diego State.
It must also be noted that, despite our own hypothesis being proven false, other studies have successfully linked food and housing insecurity to poorer academic outcomes. An implication of the results of our research could be that a student’s experience of food and housing insecurity is not a strong predictor for their academic success. Our research also had some limitations, one of them being that we had a small sample size. Perhaps in a future study, the use of online surveys could be implemented so as to have a larger sample in order to be able to further generalize the results to our intended population.