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Poor Living Standard and Its Effects on Education


Education has been the most hankered aspect of life in the contemporary world with the governments’ urge to increase their support towards equitable education gradually augmenting. This constant educational urge has provoked international controversies on equal access to educational success and its related resources. However, the social and economic aspects of life have consistently affected the levels of academic achievement almost all over the world. The relationship between economic constancy or poverty, children’s development, and academic performance have existed in several prior studies. Globally, all nations suffer from economic instabilities, and poverty pressures affect both developing and developed nations. Poverty has always affected the equitable achievement of education as it persistently presents unremitting pressures for families and children socially and economically, subsequently affecting successful school achievement—this essay reviews related literature on the effects of the poor living standard on education.

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Theoretical review

In a bid to examine the existing relationship between poverty and education, several theories have emerged and proven significant in explaining this phenomenon. One of the most significant conjectures is the theories of urban poverty, as demonstrated by Curley (2005) urban poverty remains arguably the most debated issue in the sociological and political debates. Curley (2005) asserts, “Since the mid-1960s, poverty has become more concentrated in inner-city neighborhoods across the nation and has had the greatest impact on the black urban poor” (p.97). According to this theory, urban poverty seems to be the worst since it influences an individual’s social life to great length. Therefore children brought up under such circumstances have minimal progress in their entire growth, development, and educational prospects. Taking an example of the urban blacks living across the United States and other European nations, children brought up from such families tend to demonstrate socio-psychological and cognitive problems that usually resulted in poor academic performance and growth problems.

Literature review

In a bid to provide a more in-depth insight into the research problem, this study needs to identify the meaning of the research variable encompassed in this research. Two variables are inherent to this study: poor living standards and education. Poor living standards may refer to a state where individuals or families survive through economic hardships and therefore are incapable of raising their necessities. Poor living standards, in this sense, this may refer to the state of poverty or deficiency, which simply means one’s inability to manage necessary living provisions materially, health-wise, social possessions, cultural identity, respect, and dignity as well as information and education aspects. Another significant variable to this study is education, which typically means acquiring different aspects of knowledge and skills necessary for social and economic survival in the contemporary world. Desirable educational outcomes, therefore, may include the student’s readiness to learning, educational achievement, and finally, student’s ability to complete the ordinarily gradual learning process.

A substantial literature on the relationship between economic stability or poverty with children’s development and academic performance has existed in several previous studies, including empirical researches, government reports, non-governmental studies, pragmatic books, and numerous other academic journals. Central to the poverty menace, which has proven to be chronic economic mayhem in the current millennium, the situation of poverty is constantly augmenting throughout successive decades with developed and developing nations subjugated by this problem. Drawing evidence from studies undertaken by Guo and Harris (2000), who scrutinized reports of the 1990s to determine the state of poverty in the United States, they noticed that more than one in five of children below the age six years lived in families with less than the official poverty line. This study suggested that there is a considerable gap between students living in poverty and those living in wealthy families where the provision of necessities and learning resources varies from one family to another.

Guo and Harris (2000) produced five dormant factors, including childhood sickness, child nurturing or parenting style, cognitive motivation, child’s sickness at birth, and physical environment as influential aspects of child growth and development, which affect children’s academic achievement. Childhood sickness affects children’s readiness for attending classes by affecting their physical and psychological problems. Parental nurturing, including poor lifestyles practiced by parents, may influence children behaviorally that, in return, influences learning. Childhood sickness, child, nurturing, or parenting style have been correlating directly with the family’s economic stability, where the likelihood of poverty causing sickness and poor nurturing behaviors is relatively high. Childhood poverty, according to Guo and Harris (2000), positively correlates with undesirable academic drawbacks, including dropping out of school, childbearing and teenage pregnancies to the girl child, delinquent behaviors, low academic achievement, poor physical and mental health and consequently unemployment in the future. Under the same study, the researchers revealed that there is a considerable connection between poverty and negative consequences for children, including academic performance and entire educational achievement.

Housing and social stratification

Family’s economic conditions usually envisage their living standards in relation to housing and social stratification. An individual’s thinking and level of the psychological ability depends on the prevailing circumstances in their social welfare, with considerable research providing significant evidence on correlation amongst housing, social stratification, and relative academic performance. According to research undertaken by Conley (2001), to investigate the influence of housing and social stratification on children’s academic achievement or rather education, considerable evidence linked this aspect with poverty. According to their findings, housing positively influences the social stratification of children’s education as students from poor families normally interact with individuals of similar status. Poverty, as stated before, relates to an individual’s aptitude towards accessing social belongings. According to Conley (2001), child development typically refers to the ordered appearance of mutually dependent skills of cognitive language as well as social-emotional functioning. Therefore, poverty among families directly influences the level of education through housing and through social class interactions where individuals automatically adapt to specific social classes.

The state of poverty about social stratification influences the extent to which the situation affects students socially. Poverty, according to researchers, has consistently connected with experiences of social ill-being, including a feeling of segregation, pain, and discomfort. Also, social class relating to poverty involves experiences of ill-being, including thoughts of exclusion, loneliness, embarrassments, bad relations, insecurity, vulnerability, trepidations and low self-confidence, and enthusiasm with others and family. The emotional or social state of individuals affects their psychological functioning central to which on an educational basis, the influence of such psychological factors determines academic performance. Poverty exposes teenagers to poor living standards, including living environments where they remain affected psychologically. According to comprehensive adolescent studies conducted by Rogan and friends (2001) across numerous schools in America, psychological problems appeared frequently affected children from low income or poverty families. Housing and social stratification, therefore, affect the level of student’s psychological wellbeing that consequently influences the ability to achieve their academic expectations.

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Parental educational background

Poverty, according to several researchers, is a dynamic process with the trend of families living in poverty unlikely to change depending on one given background to another. Some families cycle around poverty, where one generation subsequently succeeds the status of the previous generation leading to persistent poverty rather than intermittent poverty. According to Bolger et al. (1995), parental low educational levels face disproportionate income poverty risks. Central to this issue, parental state of education positively influences the living standards of families since most unlearned parents have poor employment status or have no employment at all. According to Bolger et al. (1995), the gap in living standards or hardship rates between families with stable employment and unemployed or poorly working families is relatively high with the level of parent’s academic condition influencing children’s academic achievement. Family’s income as it correlates directly with educational levels, therefore, influences the ability of parents to provide all basic and academic necessities for the educational development of children.

In the United States and other states and nations in the European world, the economic parity between the native whites and the non-white has arguably been among the most debated issues currently. According to several studies conducted across these countries, the majority of the non-whites have considerably low academic levels that reflect their present living standards. However, the research conducted by Bolger et al. (1995) focused on examining the effects of economic hardships on children from both the white and the black backgrounds with interest in investigating the impact of such poverty statuses on children’s academic achievements. This study revealed that children with poorly educated parents live in low-income families even below the official poverty line, consequently affecting their living standards, hence affecting their self-esteem. Self-esteem is normally a social-psychological internal force that drives learners towards high resilience in learning and, therefore, high academic performance. A study by Bolger et al. (1995) revealed that children from poor families demonstrate low self-esteem that affects their academic performance in return.

Parenting or nurturing behavior

Educational achievement among learners has long correlated with the nurturing background or simply parenting behaviors. In the contemporary world, some children live with single parents, while some have both parents. Parenting behaviors or nurturing styles have normally influenced the living styles adopted by children, which in circumstances where parents behave morally erroneous; children may grow up into adopting similar behaviors (Smith et al., 2001). Typically, parenting or child-caring depends on underlying social and economic conditions within families. Poverty, in numerous circumstances, has affiliated with poor or harsh parenting behavior principally due to prevailing family economic pressures and frustrations. According to prior studies, two important factors influence child development and academic achievement, directly or indirectly. Parental relationships and single parenthood normally act as an important factor in child development and academic excellence. According to studies undertaken by Guo and Harris (2000), analyzing parental style concluded that personal growth and development largely relies on the individual’s background as the possibility of adopting culture and norms from parents’ remains relatively high.

Substantial empirical research on growth and development has consistently revealed a positive relationship between parenting/nurturing behaviors and children’s development and academic wellbeing as poverty determines such aspects. A study carried out by Smith et al. (2001), examined the trend of welfare given to children for an average of three years of birth including essential childhood factors like parenting behaviors, provision of learning experiences as well as testing the child’s cognitive ability during the third birth year. Based on the evidence collected from this study, children from single parenting are likely to demonstrate weakness in academic performances as well as behavioral characteristics. Single parenting that is normally marred with great poverty risks with such parents suffering from greater socio-economic challenges affects their aptitude in raising children socially and economically stably. Some single parents resort to weird activities, including prostitution and drug-taking, that affects children’s academic achievement. Smith et al. (2001) assert that like the family stress model, a parental relationship that economic status largely influences determine learner academic achievement.

Child poverty and school absenteeism

Poverty, as postulated before, may refer to an individual’s incapability to provide basic social amenities for themselves and those for their families. Poverty undermines equitable access to education, as are families able to provide their young ones with basic learning equipment that facilitates substantive educational growth. Students possessing educationally enhancing materials, including course books, among others according to the family-investment model, offer learners a greater chance of educational stance compared to students deprived of the ability to possess educational materials (Zhang, 2003). The ability of students to possess all school requirements, including learning materials and educational fees, determines their chances to remain in classes or within the school milieu depending on the school’s prevailing rules and regulations. Unfortunately, the school normally needs to remain financially stable to run all school-related activities, and to pay school fees and other related charges remains the only option to manage schools in almost the entire globe. Prior empirical evidence indicates that school absenteeism has normally correlated with low academic achievement among learners.

Absenteeism refers to the aspect of absence or on-attendance, wherein the school basis this element has been a constant problem as researchers investigating this phenomenon associate it to the family’s financial instability. According to research undertaken by Zhang (2003), child poverty has long correlated with school absenteeism as students from a poor family background consistently fail to produce the required schooling necessities that result in inconsistent school attendance. The ability of learners to remain consistent in their academic performance depends entirely on the attendance sequence of students as the absence of individuals in schools or classes affects instructional achievement as provided by the teachers. Teachers normally provide learners with a successive instructional sequence that allows them to grasp all teaching concepts and topics. Therefore, central to this argument is the parent’s inability to provide their children with school requirements to influence learner’s attendance to school and classes as a whole, and thus affect their instructional concept achievement. Hence, one can conclude that poverty affects school attendance, which subsequently influences educational performance and completion.

Child Poverty and academic resources

Poverty, in its simplest form, means the lack of material or financial assets, which influences the availability of all other academic resources, including basic studying equipment. Child poverty has always been directly associated with ways that poverty influences child development and performance in class with which family functioning influences the availability of necessary academic resources. Affordability of necessary academic resources reflects on the learner’s readiness or preparedness to undergo through the educational process (Schwartz et al., 2010). Families living below the national poverty levels, according to numerous previous studies reveal that they are normally unable to cater to the basic instructional learning materials for their children. Academic resources greatly influence the classroom instructional delivery, where lack of such materials impedes the instructional achievement for the less advantaged children (Schwartz et al., 2010). Some basic educational resources may include instructional class material or even basic clothing that acts as a form of comfort to the students and allowing easy flow of instructional delivery.

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Poverty adversely affects the availability of the resources to students as research continues unveiling the realities behind the existence of disparities between learners from economically stable families and those from poverty-stricken families. Due to the “lack of financial and learning resources, students from low-income families normally struggle to reach the same academic performance or rather achievement levels of their counterparts from economically stable families” (Crowley, 2003, p.29). Academic resources may primarily not refer to financial or physical instructional material. As postulated before in the definition of the word poverty, poverty in an academic environment may also involve emotional, spiritual, and intellectual stability, as well as role modeling, support systems, and comfortable relationships. Coupled with physical and material resources, the likelihood of students from a poor family background having low academic achievement remains relatively high compared to children from economically stable families. Unfortunately, students from poor families struggle to achieve similar academic levels normally remain fruitless, given the prevailing poverty statuses and pressures from family backgrounds.

Poverty and vulnerability to abuse

Poverty undermines numerous human abilities to achieve equitable living conditions, including human rights that form an integral part of human life. The ability of families with low-income status or simply families living in wretched poverty to protect itself from manipulation or exploration remains relatively low. The considerable academic literature in the prevailing studies has indicated a significant correlation between poverty and child exploration or mistreatment (Rist, 2012). Child abuse is the most common term used to refer to any state of mistreatment, including psychological, sexual, and physical abuse that deprives children of their rights. Child abuse has consistently affected the level of academic achievement as most abused children demonstrate low self-esteem that positively correlates with poor academic achievement. Poor childcare in most cares exposes children to higher risks of child abuse. Child abuse, in return, influences or normally affects children’s cognitive and social development, including psychological fitness. Child abuse has frequently resulted in psychological traumas, which adversely affect academic achievement among learners.

As family background influences the future of individuals, it is important to consider parenting or to nurture behavior concerning child abuse. More frequently, children raised by single parenthood suffer or are at more risks of suffering from child abuse, which plays a significant role in determining an individual’s level of academic achievement. According to Gou and Harris (2000, p. 434), “family income status associates positively with the frequency or quality of caregiver interactions, it affiliates with the quality of the physical environment in and with learning opportunities in childcare.” The level of interaction between the child and the caregiver determines the communication between the two, and lack of proper communication may normally lead to persistent child abuse. Positive cognitive development determines how learners associate with friends and families, and this aspect thus influences how the children communicate their problems to their closest relatives or friends. Researchers have constantly demonstrated that financial inabilities alter considerable achievement of a level of cognitive stimulation at home, thus influencing the child’s vulnerability to abuse.

Child poverty and physical health

Physical health, in its broadest meaning, refers to an individual’s level of activeness or bodily fitness that enables persons to possess power or energy to undertake their daily activities with ease. Children’s physical stability or physical health influences their ability to undertake educational activities as to the teacher’s expectations. Education is a dynamic process that involves the student’s physical, emotional, and psychological involvement to achieve higher academic excellence. Student health affects the student’s school or class attendance, where ill health leads to school absenteeism as good health allows students to concentrate on learning.

In contrast, the learning process itself in children is none other than the physical presence of students. According to Guo and Harris (2000) assert, “insofar as poverty associates with mother’s poor health during pregnancy and increases risks or exacerbates health problems for children” (p.435). Studies conducted to examine the levels of consistency in school attendance reveal that student’s physical health influences their attendance, class concentration, and even determines the state of detention in handing academic activities.

Studies were undertaken by Guo and Harris (2000), and Smith et al. (2001) reveal the existence of two important child health-status variables that depend on growth stages. These variables include the child’s health condition at the initial birth stage and child’s health during growth and development, typically referred to as childhood health. Poor child health conditions on the initial birth stage may lead to poor health in the future since some initial birth stages involve numerous complexities that may result in severe unforeseen health complications. Children with health complications normally lead to psychologically interfered life where mental interventions would become necessary in the learning process. In Curley’s (2005) theory, “poverty affiliates with problems with domestic violence, gang affiliation, substance abuse, chronic health problems and disabilities” (p.111). Childbearing, to some degree, influences child growth and development where resource availability may adversely affect the process in the case where there is an inadequacy of the same. Poverty leads to poor childhood health since the level of childcare remains relatively poor in a circumstance where parents are incapable of providing quality healthcare for child development.


Disparate literature exists in academic journals, books, periodicals, magazines, and pamphlets linking or examining the correlation between poverty or rather poor living standards to educational achievement. Central to the poverty menace, which has proven to be chronic economic mayhem in the current millennium, the situation of poverty is constantly augmenting throughout successive decades with developed and developing nations subjugated by this problem. From theories to empirical evidence linking the two aspects of life, substantial relationship, therefore, exists between the two aspects. Research has demonstrated several mechanisms through which individuals living in poor economic statues tend to create problems for their young ones by being unable to provide necessary social amenities to enable them to pursue their educational ambitions (Ackerman et al., 1999). More precisely, poverty substantially affects directly resource availability to learners, including both financial resources and socio-psychological resources that are essential for the whole development of children. Given the biting lack of financial and learning resources, learners from low-income families normally encounter difficulties in attaining the academic performance status of their counterparts from economically stable families.

Reference List

Ackerman, B., Izard, C., Schoff, K., Youngstrom, E., & Kogos, J. (1999). Contextual risk, caregiver emotionality, and the problem behaviors of six- and seven-year-old children from economically disadvantaged families. Child Development, 70(6), 1415-1427.

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Bolger, K., Patterson, C., Thompson, W., & Kupersmidt, J. (1995). Psychosocial adjustment among children experiencing persistent and intermittent family economic hardship. Child Development, 66(4), 1107-1129.

Conley, D. (2001). A room with a view or a room of one’s own? Housing and social stratification. Sociological Forum, 16(2), 263-280.

Crowley, S. (2003). The affordable housing crisis: residential mobility of poor families and school mobility of poor children. The Journal of Negro Education, 72(1), 22-38.

Curley, A. (2005). Theories of urban poverty and implications for public housing policy. Journal of sociology and social welfare, 33(2), 97-119.

Guo, G., & Harris, K. (2000). The mechanisms mediating the effects of poverty on children’s intellectual development. Demography, 37(4), 431-447.

Rist, R. (2012). Student social class and teacher expectations: the self-fulfilling prophecy in ghetto education. Harvard Education Review, 40(3), 411-451.

Rogan, W., Ware, J., Dockery, D., Salganik, M., Radcliffe, J., Jones, R., Ragan, B., Chisolrn, J. & Rhoads, G. (2001). The effect of chelation therapy with succimer on neuropsychological development in children exposed to lead. The New England Journal of Medicine, 344, 1421-1426.

Schwartz, A., McCabe, B., Ellen, I., & Chellman, C. (2010). Public schools, public housing: the education of children living in public housing. Urban Affairs Review, 48(1), 168-189.

Smith, J., Brooks-Gunn, J., Kohen, D., & McCarton, C. (2001). Transitions on and off AFDC: Implications for parenting and children’s cognitive development. Child Development, 72(5), 1512-1533.

Zhang, M. (2003). Links between school absenteeism and child poverty. Pastoral Care in Education, 21(1), 10-17.

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