The poverty rate in the United States was a staggering 12.7% in 2016. That translates to a total of 40.6 million people living in poverty in the United States. The Federal government set the poverty threshold to approximately $24,000.00 for a family of four. With that being said, 21.2% of all children in the United States are living in poverty, which is about 1 out of every 5 children. As one would expect, poverty impacts learning, language and literacy development, academic success, health, well-being, and upward mobility of children. Here are 5 ways poverty impacts learning.
1) Achievement Gaps
Poverty impacts learning by creating achievement gaps. Research has demonstrated that children who grow up in poverty start falling behind their more economically secure and affluent peers early on in their educational career. These gaps can be seen in learning, social-emotional development, and language skills. There is a correlation between socioeconomic status and achievement tests.
2) Physical Systems
Poverty harms children by hindering the development of their brain and other bodily systems. Poverty negatively affects body and brain development and can make it difficult for cognitive skills to develop. Additionally, children living in poverty have an increased likelihood to suffer from chronic illnesses, as well as shortened life expectancies.
3) Negative Home Environment
While we are positive that poor families have many strengths and love, it is important to mention that poverty tends to bring negative experiences into home life. Poor or less affluent parents tend to have higher stress levels and exposure to more aggravating experiences. Additionally, poor parents tend to experience symptoms of depression because they face difficulties in providing their children with food, hygiene items, material needs, and a place to live. Additionally, poor children tend to have less access to books and other educational resources, and are less likely to experience educational family outings.
4) Behavioral Issues
Children living in poverty tend to experience more behavioral issues than their more economically secure and affluent peers. Typically, these children “act-out,” lack social and behavioral norms, and act impulsively. Poor children usually lack a social network that can help them obtain social and emotional skills.
5) Lack of Learning Programs
Many low socioeconomic children experience a lack of access to learning programs. Schools in poorer areas tend to fail their students by not providing educational resources beyond school hours. That is why it is so important for schools and local communities to emphasize expanding and learning verbal language skills.
Organizations such as the Latino Family Literacy Program offer an array of resources and suggestions for teachers working with low-income students, as well as English Language Learners (ELLs) and immigrant students. These resources can be used to fortify the learning outcomes of said students. Additionally, there are many local and national organizations that can provide aid to students and families living in poverty. As a trusted source, teachers can recommend that low-income parents reach out to these types of organizations.
5 Ways Poverty Impacts Learning