Poverty and Education Literature Review

Poverty and Education Literature Review

There has been growing awareness of the economic disparities in the United States. Over numerous platforms, the widening dollar gap between the various social-economic classes is noted as an alarming sign of the prevalence of poverty (Orshansky, 1963). The capitalistic approaches through which processes occur subjugate those at the bottom of the economic pyramid year after year. The issue of poverty has been a clear call for action for decades. Studies demonstrate the growing incapability for upward mobility for families at the lower end of the poverty line. Various government initiatives sought to ease the burden and alleviate poverty to no avail. Statistics highlight the growing rate of poverty despite government initiatives to eliminate it. Scholars have fronted strong arguments for and against enacted initiatives. It is worth noting that little has changed in government initiatives for decades, despite assiduous propositions from multiple scholars. What is known about poverty? To what scale is poverty prevalent in the United States?

Varying definitions of poverty have existed for decades. Prescriptions of the measurement of poverty in the United States morphed along with the industrial and economic revolutions of the nineteenth century (Bremner, 1992). The current poverty line prescription is the construct of the crude calculation methods of the 1960s. The strategy conforms to Mollie Orshanksy’s definition of poverty- income measured against the family minimum food budget multiplied by three (DeParle, 1990). Year after year, the resulting figure is increased to account for inflation rates and economic diversifications. Numerous studies question the contemptuous poverty calculation strategy. Ramifications to Orshansky’s propositions changed the per capita index to Consumer Price Index but based the measurement on the proposed economy food plan (Fisher, 1992). The same prescriptions are used today to appropriate government funds in benefit programs. Studies question the food budget quotient applied in the strategy. Different populations, races, and ethnicities in the United States assign varying levels of importance to different foods. While one community might predominantly consider cereal in minimalistic budgets, another reveres meat for its nutritional contents. The crude poverty calculation method remains questioned by various disciplines today.

Studies report a staggering United States population living under the grey poverty line. The 2019 Census report indicated close to 34 million United States citizens lived below the poverty line (US Census Bureau, 2020). The figure was a 1.3% increase from 2018. Different poverty classes are grouped within this group. The statistics also present that 14.4% of children below eighteen years live below the poverty line (US Census Bureau, 2020). Although there are debates on the comprehensiveness of the current index, there is consensus that families below the poverty line struggle between diet and other necessities (Orshansky, 1963; Short, 2012). Scholars have identified necessities such as medical cover, shelter, room heating, and clothing, all of which are constitutionally provided for as basic needs. The poverty projection demonstrates a growing economic gap between high-poverty and low-poverty families in the United States. A significant United States population lives below the poverty line.

Although it is a well-known fact that millions of families live below the poverty line, federal government interceptions have worked to aid the economic situation rather than alleviate poverty. Impoverished neighborhoods barely develop. Orshansky (1963) notes that a third of United States children below eighteen years are growing up in poverty. The capitalistic interplay of economics oppresses this generation even further making it harder for them to escape poverty (Fisher, 1992). Government subsidies are shared out through the same crude poverty evaluations that have undermined populations for decades. The measure of a basic food plan indexed against the consumer price index remains crude to contemporary society (Fisher, 1992; Short, 2012). Although the index is aimed at catering to inflation rates, elaborate economic inflation rates affect all areas. Economic inflation translates into healthcare, transport, housing, and clothing inflations. Over the last two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has steepened the economic status of many. This has increased the number of families below the line of poverty. News sources have on numerous occasions highlighted the economic strain that continues to affect all regions in the crisis-struck year. A measure based on food remains ineffective, and under the rising unemployment rates and eruptive health crises, the poverty numbers are bound to multiply.

Poverty and Education

The poverty outlook in the United States affects the children population. Statistics identify one in every five poor people to be a child. Statistics identify a greater propensity of children from low-income families to be enrolled in high-poverty schools (Anderson, 1992). The case is elucidated by data from developing countries, and extrapolated in the United States. Impoverished regions score high on the list of schools eligible for government assistance. Alternative studies have established a growing commitment to child education among poor Latina and African American families (Ceballo, 2004; Quane & Rankin, 1998). Although not many children from low-income families make it to higher learning institutions, most families maintain a high regard for education. Ceballo (2004) established that a substantial population of low-income single mothers is the population leading the generation of supporting parents for child education. These parents also hold high regard for child career autonomy, provide or act as mentors, and are supportive of educational and career goals (Ceballo, 2004). Despite being supported by their families, most children from low-income families don’t amount to academic achievements.

In the United States, studies identify significant student populations as living below the poverty line. The federal government provides free and reduced-price meals for eligible students through Title one of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act (Anderson, 1992; Hussar et al., 2020). A high number of schools qualify for the high-poverty classification. The population means that a significant United States student population lives below the poverty line and is eligible for free and reduced-price meals at school. Additionally, studies identify a viable correlation between high-poverty schools and low academic achievement. Some studies also identify the propensity of high-poverty schools to enroll significant populations of students at risk of academic failure (Anderson, 1992). Numerous studies affiliate low academic achievements by students from poor families to the insufficient neuronal developments that affect cognitive capacities (Noble et al., 2006). Structural arguments, however, identify the unavailability of equitable resources in high-poverty schools than those in low-poverty institutions. Poverty is conclusively a significant influencing factor in academic access and achievement.

The data informed Dr. Paul Gorski’s prescription of the teaching and reading experience in poverty. Dr. Gorski vilifies the poverty-based inequality literacy approach that propagates discriminative teaching to children in low-income schools (Gorski, 2017). Poverty in educational studies lacks a universal definition and is expressed in varying constructs by various scholars. Irrespective of the definition poverty and education coexist as directly related variables. Family socioeconomic status affects the quality and outcome of education. Poor families might be committed to providing their children with the best possible education, but they have to maintain a balance in expenditure with other necessities (Bremner, 1992; Coleman-Jensen, 2011). Poverty is reported to curtail access to educational resources and amenities amidst extended unequal literacy approaches (Gorski, 2017; Van der Berg, 2008). Additionally, poor regions are bereft of resources. Poor urban and rural areas are devoid of libraries, internet connections, schools, and teachers. Education and poverty are interrelated variables that directly affect each other. Objective studies attribute poverty to low academic performance (Van der Berg, 2008). Scholars identify low economic capacities as influencing factors to low academic achievements.

The commitment of the federal government to education has not wavered. The promise holds and the government distributes billions of dollars in support of high-poverty schools. State and federal governments continue to provide free and reduced-price meals in eligible schools (Hussar et al., 2020). Boschee (1989) notes that much of the initial quality commitment to education is neglected. he adds that such neglect is the cause of rising numbers of school dropouts and juvenile justice systems populations (Durlak et al., 2011). Local, state, and federal governments are aware of the situation around poverty in education but have made little to ensure equitable resources. Vast scholarly studies emphasize the situation and effect of poverty in education without drawing solute suggestions. This study acknowledges the structural disparities between schools drawn on the lines of poverty levels. The adopted mitigating strategies include a structural approach aimed at equaling the odds on access to allow equitable educational resources.

Multi-Dimensions of Educational Poverty

Efforts to resolve educational poverty must include a holistic multi-dimensional understanding of the phenomenon. Poverty in education is predominantly described as the inefficiency of financial resources. While the notion has proliferated studies on poverty, the scope of these resources extends beyond finances. Noble et al. (2006); Payne (2019) agree many more resources define poverty. The financial prescription of poverty might be valid in economic contexts, but when social life is involved, it stands insufficient. Assiduous propositions have been based upon financial measures of social-economic classifications (Anderson, 1992; Norris et al., 2010; Van der Berg, 2008). Scholarly definitions however disagree with the financial conception and integrate additional forms as constituting poverty.

The intersection of the various forms of poverty and demographics exposes children to the adverse effects of poverty. Noble et al. (2006) report the neuronal effects of exposure to poverty. Among the cognitive capacities affected by chronic poverty include language, visuospatial, impulse regulation, and memory (Noble et al., 2006; Norris et al., 2010). These effects could manifest in classroom deficiencies that contribute to low academic achievements. Although Gorski (2017) strongly objects to the opinion and advocates for a structural approach to the understanding, children from low-income families manifest weak memory, poor reading skills, and deficient vocabulary (Jensen et al., 2019). The student-teacher relationship is a notable neutralizer of poverty-inflicted deficiencies. If well-adopted, structural interventions for equitable and rich teaching could overweigh educational poverty deficiencies (Gorski, 2017; Jensen, 2019). Poverty vindicates various cognitive, emotional, social, and linguistic deficiencies in children.

The adopted definition provides for a holistic view of the characteristic resources within the poverty classification. In particular, emotional, cognitive, linguistic, and social resources are included among the inefficiencies in educational poverty (Noble et al., 2006; Payne, 2019). Beyond popular belief, poverty is known to exert these additional dimensions to financial lack. Exposure to poverty exposes children to lack in these dimensions. Each of them is critical to the learning process, and lack translates to devastating impacts on academic achievements. The impact of each of these deficiencies corresponds to the period and intensity of either of the dimensions. Whether students are exposed to situational, generational, absolute, relative, rural, or urban poverty, they are prone to resources inefficiency that could affect their academic excellence (Jensen, 2009). The following detailed analysis expounds on each poverty dimension and the imperative impact on education.

Emotional Dimension

The lack and availability of inefficient emotional resources are known to affect education. Amartya Sen defined poverty as the lack of adequate resources, denying one the capability to effectively function in society (Van der Berg, 2008). Education exposes children to an emotional field necessitating emotional intelligence to coexist with others. It also makes them susceptible to emotional triggers in student-student or teacher-student interactions. Growing up in poverty makes children prone to weak emotional intelligence. Child development and educational theorists Piaget and Vygotsky agree emotional development is a critical aspect of growth and learning (Smolucha & Smolucha, 2021). Jensen (2019) reported that a significant population of children from low-income families demonstrate hypervigilance, hopelessness, apathy, and in-your-face aggressiveness- qualities that demonstrate emotional poverty. Without emotional capabilities to socialize and operate in emotion-intensive teenage school settings, children from poor families are prone to altercation cases that see many expelled from school.

In addition to individual emotional capacities, education heavily appeals to the family, teacher, and community resources children are exposed to. The emotions invested by the teachers, family, and community into students go a long way to encourage or discourage them (Durlak et al., 2011; Jennings & Greenberg, 2009). Families offer emotional resources that encourage hard work, commitment, and in turn, academic excellence. Ceballo (2004) identifies verbal and non-verbal family support as integral to academic achievement by students from low-income families. Children that lack emotional support are considered poor and may demonstrate poor work ethic and disengagement from academic undertakings (Blum, 2004; Durlak et al., 2011). The quality of emotional resources manifests in a child's abilities to interact and collaborate with others through the education process.


Linguistic capabilities are instrumental to academic excellence. Students' ability to read and write plays an integral role in their capacity to understand and manipulate knowledge. Visser et al. (2006) in the multiple intelligence theory labels linguistic capabilities as among the eight forms of intelligence. The relevance of the ability to read and write is further emphasized when classified among the relevant school resources (Van der Berg, 2008). Linguistic resources may include more than the comprehensive ability to read and write. It also includes the capability to communicate, express oneself, and comprehend vocabulary. Children from low-income families identifiably demonstrate insufficient linguistic capacities.

Although most who attend school have the capacity to read and write, they may struggle to keep up with vocabulary. As children grow, they follow a curve of development projected by the stimuli in their immediate environment (Colombo & Lipina, 2009). This applies to linguistic capacities. The limited books and formal register children high-poverty homes are exposed to denies them needed linguistic resources to grow their capabilities (Anderson, 1992; Payne, 2019). Linguistic poverty, therefore, qualifies as among the dimensions in which children experience lack. This dimension of poverty is exhibited in school relations. Children from low-income families may struggle with the formal register, negotiation skills, and linguistic capabilities necessary to succeed in school (Payne, 2019). Interventions, therefore, have to be tuned to enhance the linguistic skills of children from impoverished backgrounds.

Noble et al. (2006) identify reduced linguistic capabilities as aligned to insufficient neuronal developments. The frontal cortex responsible for effective linguistic development is identified to contain reduced grey matter in children from poor backgrounds. Insufficient development emanates from exposure to chronic poverty, a state that offsets the need-access ratio (Colombo & Lipina, 2009; E. Jensen, 2009). The inefficiencies, further extrapolated in an income-to-need ratio demonstrate the lack of sufficient protein and energy, relevant for growth. Also, the left fusiform gyrus, responsible for phonological awareness and linguistic capabilities insufficiently develops under inadequate energy and stimuli (Colombo & Lipina, 2009). As such, underdeveloped neuronal networks in this section of the brain manifest in reduced or delayed reading and writing capabilities. Paired together, the neuronal and exposure approaches reinforce the dimension of linguistic poverty.

Cognitive Dimension

Among the scientifically proven resources that lack in children from poor families is cognitive capability. Studies in neuroscience and psychology establish the close relationship between poverty and neurocognitive development (Colombo & Lipina, 2009). The impact of poverty on cognitive capabilities is evidenced by findings on numerous cognitive functions. Broadly, cognition behavior, neural activation, and molecular capacities are adversely affected by low social-economic life. for decades, scholars focussed their attention on the neural cognitive developments and the perceived impact of poverty in recent years however, the fields of education and developmental psychology have invested more effort to understand the cognitive influence of poverty on child capabilities (D’angiulli et al., 2012). With the available data, it is possible to make conclusive yet incorrect assumptions on the perceived impact of poverty on cognitive ability. It stands imperative to employ clinically precise data of the various pathways through which low social economic backgrounds affect child cognitive functions.

Among the oldest explanations of the relationship between poverty and cognitive capability was hypothesized over nine decades ago. Neuroscientists set out on the noble course to deliver a scientific explanation to the prevalent low academic achievements in high-poverty schools. Numerous experiments discovered inferential and conclusive evidence poverty affects the development of neural pathways causing reduced cognitive capacities (D’angiulli et al., 2012; Lipina, 2017). The basis of the exploration built upon the psychological propositions of Jean Piaget’s Cognitive theory. According to Piaget, a child's cognitive development goes through four stages. Sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operation stages (Babakr et al., 2019). Across each of these stages, neuronal dendrites interact and react forming cognitive capacities. D’angiulli et al. (2012) relate low social-economic standards to deficit neural developments interpreted in Intelligence Quotient. Similar findings demonstrate chronic poverty as an active contributor to insufficient development of the temporal lobe, hippocampus, and frontal lobe (Hair et al., 2015; Lipina, 2017). Identified underdevelopment could result from numerous sources.

Cognitive underdevelopment disadvantaged children as an incapacitated resource in education. Unlike financial lack, insufficient cognitive development directly affects child education. Payne (2019) noted that insufficient cognitive development results in deficient classroom abilities. Children with underdeveloped cognitive capabilities are likely to have reduced memory, poor phonological knowledge, and impaired reading skills (Jensen, 2009; Noble et al., 2006). Identified by the deficiencies caused, the cognitive dimension of poverty can be detrimental to child education. When children are incapacitated to read, understand, effectively respond to linguistic, mathematical, and humanities subjects, they are bound to underperform. Numerous approaches to poverty and education have focussed on financial deprivation and ignored dimensions such as the cognitive lack of resources. Underdeveloped cognitive capabilities make it hard for students to sufficiently acquire mental skills relevant to daily life (Payne, 2019). While non-government organizations mobilize to raise funds and cater for financial resources lacking in high-poverty schools and families, little intervention is directed to resolving cognitive underdevelopment.

           Cognitive abilities tie together the social, emotional, linguistic, and computational skills needed to not only excel in academics but also in daily life interactions.

Effects of Poverty on Teaching-learning in School

The apparent impact of poverty on the teaching-learning interplay at school has long been studied. As noted, students from low-income families are prone to multi-dimensional deficiencies resultant from underserved resources. But what effects does poverty have on the teaching-learning interaction? Numerous studies identify children from low-income families as susceptible to enrolment in high-poverty schools (Hussar et al., 2020). These are schools devoid of resources and facilities to provide rich education. The issue of resources extends to the availability of qualified teachers passionate about imparting students with much-needed education (Knapp et al., 1995). Community schools and high-poverty schools don’t compare to low-poverty schools in measure of facilities and amenities. While the former has limited resources, the latter are well-equipped. Poverty directly impacts the teaching-learning intersection through access to resources.

In order to develop a wholesome understanding of the effect of poverty in education, one needs to understand the various types of poverty. Jensen (2009), a scholar who grew up in poverty argues there are numerous types of poverty. Against popular conception, Jensen delineates the various types of poverty as designated by the cause and extent of the impact. Her classification not only builds upon personal experience but also integrates scholarly experience qualifying her for credible description. The classification of the different types of poverty combines the social and economic aspects of the debilitating condition. Numerous social and economic specialists stand supportive of the six types of poverty, although some add more.

Situational Poverty

As the name suggests, situational poverty is momentary and might not last long. The description of situation poverty aligns with the financial dimension of poverty. This type of poverty is caused by crises such as natural calamities, war, or pandemics (Jensen, 2009). When natural calamities hit a region, people are displaced, life disrupted, and property destroyed. Take for instance natural calamities such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and tornadoes, and volcanic eruptions. These subjugate families into financial distraught, a situation described as situational poverty. Over the short period a crisis hits, it disentangles financial institutions sending families into a frenzy. Although situational poverty might be momentary, it bears enough capacity to inflict some dimensions of poverty that affect education (Gorski, 2017). Situational poverty incapacitates aspects critical to child education.

Areas hit by a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, or recent floods suffer losses. Although these societies rebuild and restore their former glory, a lot is lost. Families that lose members, property, or are displaced are driven into a steep financial decline that is at most times detrimental to child education (Jensen, 2009; Lok-Dessallien, 1999). The loss of property and lives has the potential to impart depression and economic distress causing formerly well-off families to struggle between dieting and necessities (Bremner, 1992; Orshansky, 1963). Such implications are known to disrupt cognitive development in children. Traumatized, children in their early stages of growth will experience deficiencies in neuronal development. Most of them might end up lacking decision making, computation, phonological awareness, flexibility, working memory, emotional intelligence, and attention capabilities (D’angiulli et al., 2012; Lipina, 2017; Van der Berg, 2008). Situational poverty could inflic6t emotional and cognitive disruptions that in turn affect education.

Relative Poverty

This type of poverty compares family income to the standard of living. In an income-to-needs ratio, relative poverty is gauged against basic standards of living. This is the description used to classify low-income families as living below the poverty line (Orshansky, 1963). Under different considerations, relative poverty is also equated with the disparity between low and high-income families. Lok-Dessallien (1999) defines relative poverty as the income quintile difference between families in the upper and lower segments in a nation. Families on the lower segments of these relative poverty scales struggle to meet basic needs. They might have housing, but lack quality nutrition, room heating, and medical covers. The majority of children from these families end up in high-poverty schools as families struggle to maintain a balance between income and needs. relative poverty retains a high potential of possibilities that impact education.

Families on either end of relative poverty react differently to circumstances. Households living below the poverty line, on the lower segments of a population are adversely affected by crisis and natural calamities. Although they are eligible for government subsidies, not everything is covered. Lack of ample nutrition and energy could stifle neuronal developments in children (D’angiulli et al., 2012; Jensen, 2009). Additionally, children raised in such communities lack exposure to formal diction and emotional capacities. The children raised on the upper end of the curve receive ample growth, social, and emotional support, and are bound to academically outperform those on the lower segments. A case point, Knapp et al. (1995) established students from high-income families outdo those from poor families in mathematical conceptions, linguistic capabilities, and comprehension. Relative poverty could potentially result in positive outcomes, but if interjected by situational poverty, the situation escalates against the welfare of child education.

Rural and Urban Poverty

There stand distinctive differences between rural and urban poverty. The two types of poverty are distinguished by differences that affect education in varying capacities. Among the differences is the location. Urban poverty is characteristic of metro areas while rural delineate countryside low-income existence. Low-income communities in metro areas present as overcrowded, noisy, violent, and devoid of resources ( Jensen, 2009; Lok-Dessallien, 1999). Most of these areas are referred to as ghettos in slang and lack amenities such as hospitals, schools, and sanitation. Inhibited by gangs, these communities are proliferated with crime, social pathologies, and psychological disorders (Tine, 2017). The rate of employment in urban poverty is low and therefore offers the possibility of upward mobility. The dangers of crime, overcrowding, and social pathologies such as divorce in urban poverty jeopardize education.

Rural is defined in terms of proximity to an urban area and population. Most low-income families living in rural areas differ greater poverty than those in urban areas. This is because they are impeded by high unemployment rates and the unavailability of resources. Poor healthcare, low-quality housing, and vast isolation of low-income families in rural areas limit official support systems and lowers both the quality and access to education (Jensen, 2009; Tine, 2017). Unlike those in the urban areas, children in the rural areas are isolated from beneficial interactions with facilities such as technology and informed students. Low-income families in rural areas are also exposed to greater unemployment rates that limit upward mobility. The further away poor rural families are separated from an urban center, the more limited the quality of education.

Additional notable differences include teacher, class, and school differences between rural and urban poverty. School qualities differ by a significant margin between rural and urban settings. The differences emanate from the rift in funding between the two high-poverty areas. Government funding algorithms favor larger districts (Tine, 2017). Non-metro districts with populations of less than 50,000, therefore, receive scant funding, a share that limits school investments. Similar challenges extend to the quality of teachers. Struggling with funding, local authority taxes cannot fully supplement rural schools to match those in urban areas. The schools, therefore, struggle to recruit and maintain qualified teachers. The working conditions in rural areas are also harsh, and teachers placed there miss out on fringe benefits such as health insurance (Tine, 2017). Qualified teachers opt to work in urban areas and access better pays and benefits, leaving those with mild qualifications to tutor poor rural children. The results of low qualifications in teachers are evident in the academic attainments of high-poverty rural areas.

In a twist of events, rural class sizes are small and allow the provision of better quality education. Unlike the crowded low-income urban schools, rural classes, although scarce, are small and this allows teachers to focus more on the children. Research attributes the quality of education to the teacher-student ratio (Tine, 2017). Understandably, a teacher in a small class has the opportunity to centralize teaching approaches and ensure comprehensive learning. In urban classes, this is nearly impossible to adopt differentiated student instruction strategies. Students bring with them varying social, cognitive, and behavioral orientations (Tomlinson, 2017). These characteristics impact student readiness for the various subjects they are to study. A small teacher-student ratio allows teachers to diversify instructions to the needs of each student, therein allowing optimal learning (Tine, 2017; Tomlinson, 2017). Differentiated instructions are possible in rural areas but a tough call in the densely populated low-income urban areas. Poverty in both rural and urban areas directly impacts education, limiting access to quality teaching-learning experiences.

Generational Poverty

Generational poverty refers to family situations in which at least two generations are born in the shackles of poverty. This type of poverty might emanate from situational poverty and grow over years tying down families to the plagues social-economic situation. Generational poverty can and does exist in both rural and urban areas. The capitalistic interplay of economic activities is making it harder and harder for families below the poverty line to achieve upward mobility. The longer a family is stuck within the fangs of poverty, the harder it becomes for future generations to escape (Orshansky, 1963). The propensity of low-income families experiencing generational poverty is affiliated to the set of hidden cultures, belief systems, and rules (Jensen, 2009; Payne, 2019). Numerous poor urban and rural families hold staunch belief systems integrated into every aspect of life. These rules and belief systems influence decisions on healthcare, education, success, religion, and social interactions. Students bring to school mild to extreme hidden normative habits and cues. To a great extent, these hidden rules influence relationships and affect academic behavior and collaboration. Without sufficient financial resources, low-0income families are incapable of supporting higher education. They, therefore, struggle with financial imbalances and fail to make upward mobility.

Absolute Poverty

Although rarely experienced in the United States, absolute poverty describes struggles to survive. The concept of absolute poverty describes sustenance levels below the minimum socially acceptable standards (Lok-Dessallien, 1999). At this stage of poverty, day-to-day necessities are achieved with a struggle. Families may even go hungry on numerous days. Clothing, nutrition, and shelter constitute the impoverished living standards for those in absolute poverty. Unemployment is highest in this type of poverty and most children grow without education as families cannot afford it. Absolute poverty is at times referred to as indigence or extreme poverty delineating the impoverished and deprived standards of living. Absolute poverty directly affects education denying children access and capacitive growth for ample teaching-learning experience.

Conclusively, the various types of poverty affect education in two capacities; access and anatomical growth. In addition to the scant resources and instructions, students in high-poverty schools experience cognitive deficiencies relatable to their impoverished backgrounds. Hair et al. (2015) note that poverty directly impacts educational attainment. Studies that compared the household economic levels and academic attainment conclude that poverty translates to poor academic achievements (Hair et al., 2015; Knapp et al., 1995). The relationship is attributed to the neuronal developments that facilitate linguistic and mathematical capacities. A longitudinal three-month study of students from families earning 200% income below the poverty level identified structural brain developments relative to academic inefficiencies. The gray matter of the hippocampus, temporal lobe, and frontal lobe was underdeveloped in children from low-income families (Hair et al., 2015). This neuronal explanation affirms the multi-dimensional deficiencies that affect student learning (Jensen, 2009). Inefficient neuronal development means children are incapacitated to think mathematically and demonstrate proficiency in reading and writing. These factors amount to low academic achievement. Impoverished backgrounds limit child access to quality education and stunt neuronal development, impacting their cognitive capacities in the teaching-learning experience.

Approaches to Acquaint and Mitigate Constraints of Educational Poverty

The exploration of poverty and its apparent effects on education is aimed at resolving the stereotype ‘children from low-income families perform poorly academically.’ The study aims to acquaint and revise mitigation strategies for a better teaching-learning experience for children from poor families. While there are numerous mitigation propositions, they are broadly categorized into structural and individualized ideologies. These ideologies differ in approach and definition of the causes of poor academic performance in children living below the poverty line in the United States. Structural strategies view the problem as emanating from circumstances beyond the control of the parents, students, and teachers (Gorski, 2017). Individualized ideologies, on the contrary, view the problems as personalized and therefore propose aligned mitigation strategies. The following analysis examines the acquainted individualized and structural mitigation strategies against perceived impacts to education.

Structural Strategies

The primary definitions of poverty are based on financial resources. Similarly, poverty exerts financial implications on education. As identified, access to education is one of the most significant implications of poverty (Gorski, 2017). Beyond education, poverty has in numerous mitigation discussions been equated to various structural variables. Each of these variables is known to assert particulate disadvantage and inequality against low-income families. Various scholars have undertaken studies to confirm the structural nature and effect of poverty in education. Widespread consensus asserts poverty has a structural basis and similarly affects education. As such, numerous mitigation strategies conform to the structural setting. They are tuned to ratify the structural differences in society that deprive some of an equal opportunity to access and benefit from quality education.


Social exclusion is a social vice people have fought against for decades. Although the concept lacks broad consensus of its reach, its relation to poverty is undoubted. Some define social exclusion as an aspect or construct of poverty, while others group it under a collection of issues warranting collective action (Lok-Dessallien, 1999). Various forms of social exclusion highlight biases and segregation on the lines of age, sex, race, and ethnicity. Broader and objective add social, economic, and religious biases to exclusion. Irrespective of the conception adopted, exclusion subjugates sections of the society to unwanted and substandard facilities (Fisher, 1992; Gorski, 2017). The United States has struggled with racial and ethnic segregation for decades. Ever since the emancipation of farm and industrial slaves in the 19thcentury, all fifty states have struggled to wipe out social exclusion. Today, social exclusion has grown to include other minority communities including Hispanic, Latino, Asian, and African Americans.

Exclusion directly impacts poverty and education. Disaggregation policies assign mild funding to minority regions. This in turn affects the development capacities of these regions. Education in the regions occupied by minorities is of poor quality. The overpopulated urban regions of low-income minorities have few unequipped schools that don’t measure up to their White counterparts (Borman & Overman, 2004). Gorski (2017) leads a campaign of scholars propagating the to restructure of social structures to alleviate exclusion for more equitable education opportunities. In the twelve-principle concept of equality against poverty, Gorski promotes, two of the principles upend social exclusion. After highlighting that poverty and class are intersectional in the third law, he emphasizes “Educational outcomes disparities are the result of inequities of unjust distributions of access and opportunity, not the result of deficiencies in the mindsets, cultures, or grittiness of people experiencing poverty” on the eighth law (Gorski, 2017). Upending social exclusion on ethnic, racial, and social-economic classifications is a positive mitigation strategy to the structural impacts of poverty on education.


Poverty and the apparent discrimination on such lines set up children from low-income communities for more educational hazards. The discriminative society we live in today is reflected in school settings. Similar segregation in terms of race, religion, sex, or ethnicity is expressed among hormonal teenagers. Poverty, therein, makes children from minority poor communities vulnerable to bullying and interconnectedness; aspects that disrupt their academic focus (Johnson, 2019). The afflictions of poverty present these children as moving targets vulnerable to all forms of attacks. They stand distinguished from their well-off counterparts lacking in resources, food, shelter, and clothing. Most bullying cases in any level of education reflect the extent of vulnerability faced by poor students. Vulnerability extends beyond racial and ethnic segregation and is demonstrated in the imbalance of access to resources.

Children from poor rural and urban areas don’t match those from families living above the poverty line in access to resources. Those from the rural areas lack access to the internet and an explorative environment with libraries. Even though they might be hardworking, they are vulnerable to the lack of resources, and can barely match those in the urban low-poverty communities. Those from poor urban areas also lack adequate resources, a disadvantage that makes them vulnerable to low academic attainments. Poverty exposes children to chronic stress and trauma (Johnson, 2019). If they are bullied at school, they are made vulnerable to trauma, stress, and hypervigilance, behavioral adjustments that disorient academic focus.

Mitigation strategies for these structural imbalances ought to be holistic, comprehensively providing for equitable education for all. Gorski & Swalwell (2015)suggest a four-step mitigation intervention adoptable by school and community leaders.

Recognizing inequities and biases in school and society is identified as the first step to a more equitable education. Social biases are not always racial. Some communities face economic segregation, while others struggle with ethnic, religious, and gender biases (Gorski, 2017). Since approaches to education, social interaction, and resource distribution are aligned to these biases, recognizing the predominant inequities is understandably the first step to resolution. After recognizing, leaders are urged to respond to the immediate biases contributing to disaggregation. Although schools exist within broader societies and reflect the issues within them, the frequency of the issues differs. Racial segregation might exist in a community but not experience extremes of bullying. Schools on the other hand amplify these biases and might exhibit them in extremes. The opposite is also true. Gorski & Swalwell (2015) propose that leaders respond to their immediate biases to create a conducive learning environment.

Resolving immediate inequities and biases doesn’t warrant alleviation of similar occurrences in the future. The efforts adopted to resolve immediate issues must be robust enough to redress and enact long-term change (Gorski, 2017). The strategies school and community leadership adopt to resolve economic inequity should allow for long-term impacts. Finally, the structural resolution of biases is pegged to the creation and adoption of an equitable and sustainable environment. Significant changes to social structures ought to be sustainable. Sustainable equity is dependent on the redistribution of opportunity access. These mitigation strategies propose a restructuring of social, economic, and political structures. Such changes ensure equitable access to financial support, schools, academic resources, healthcare, housing, and security (Gorski, 2017). Structural strategies proposed emphasize closing the poverty and segregation gaps in society to avail equitable resources to all.

Strategic gap

These structural strategies are specific and effective in alleviating the poverty quotient in education. Although they promise to foster equitable access to opportunities, they miss a salient point; the influence of poverty on education goes beyond racial segregation. Instead, apparent debilitating impacts of poverty on education evoke an income-achievement gap. Scholars presume the relationship between academic performance and poverty can be summed to the Black and White social status in the United States. On the contrary, the population living below the poverty line is diverse in ethnic terms. It includes White, Latina, Mexicans, Asians, and Hispanic residents. The six types of poverty affect all races, and hence, the inherent influence of poverty on education is an income gap. African American families have over the years embraced upward mobility. A significant population occupies the middle class. This has upended the Black poor narrative, and so has the racial outlook in academic performance. Also, many Hispanic families are fast embracing education and upward mobility changing the equation to an income-achievement situation (Anderson, 1992; Hair et al., 2015; Reardon, 2013). As such structural interventions should focus on closing the poverty gap for sustainable long-term academic goals.

Individualistic Strategies

The opinion contrary to structural is individualistic. The ideology goes beyond the external factors beyond the control of a school or classroom situation and instead focuses on the immediate populations in a teaching-learning setting. Students and teachers form the primary education population. Family and community complement the primary population with resources and necessary support systems. Individualistic strategies are built upon the notion that achievements are the result of one’s behavior, culture, and actions (Gorski, 2017). The ideology is supported by the vast cognitive and anatomical findings that attribute low academic achievements by children from low-income families to developmental inefficiencies. Numerous studies align poverty-inflicted neuronal and cognitive developments to the prevalent low academic attainments (Colombo & Lipina, 2009; Payne, 2019; Visser et al., 2006). Developed behavior in children raised in high-poverty neighborhoods also contributes to low academic performances (Noble et al., 2006). Individualistic interventions focus on the conceptions that can improve the attitudes, behavior, and development of students from poor families. Proposed strategies focus on either students or teachers.

Teacher-Focussed Interventions

Scholars identify a high correlation between teacher attitudes and student academic attainment. The mechanisms adopted possess the potential to alter pre-deposited student behavior and attitudes (Hughes, 2010; Raffo et al., 2007). Since a lot of significance to child education outcomes is affiliated with teacher input, it is necessary to employ strategic interventions to ensure proximal outcomes. Teachers spend the most time with students. Direct contact makes them influential players in character development. Budge & Parrett (2017) note that the debilitating influence of poverty is fast becoming a crisis warranting the integration of poverty-sensitive classroom practices. Teachers are in pole position to dispel poverty mindsets, cultures, and behavior in their daily class and school interactions with children. The following strategies make the list of adoptable teacher interventions in a bid to help poor children.

Culturally competent teaching.

Cultural differences are among the exclusion lines that expose populations to vulnerability. Contemporary classrooms have evolved into heterogeneous collections of students from various cultural backgrounds. Traditional teaching curriculums adopted much of cultural segregation to the impediment of the learning experience (Hughes, 2010). Teaching preparations have to go beyond discriminative systems to foster a cohesive learning experience. Some of the avoided social issues should be integrated into curriculum preparations to ensure equitable, caring, and supportive teaching-learning interactions (Budge & Parrett, 2017). Bronfenbrenner's ecological model highlights the propensity of students to adopt social-cultural attitudes in their teachers (Pinterits et al., 2013). Culturally competent teaching approaches work to ensure a cohesive, united, and supportive class of students who look at each other with indiscriminate opinions. In addition to fostering cultural competence in the students, teachers that include student differences in their preparation adopt critical differentiation strategies. Since they gather ample understanding of issues facing students from poor families, culturally competent teachers can adjust instructions to allow personalized learning.

Culture influences attitudes and behavior. Cultural competence allows teachers to adopt neutral approaches to maintain balanced instructions. As noted, different communities hold a dear hidden set of rules, beliefs, and attitudes that might easily interfere with the learning process (Payne, 2019). Lacking cultural competence could lead to antagonistic undertakings or comments that can dispel students. Culturally competent instruction avoids the use of stereotypes and defaming, ensuring cohesion, appreciation, and holistic learning. For effective learning to occur, teaching must reflect the realities of society in a fair and undiscriminating manner. Teachers should also offer comprehensive social-political contexts to improve students' knowledge of the world around them. Teaching curriculums should change and adopt cultural competencies for an improved teaching-learning experience.

Enhancing productive learning.

Supportive environments are differentiators in academic achievements. Ceballo (2004) established a significant correlation between support systems and academic productivity. According to her study, Latino single parents played an integral role in the academic attainments of their children. Support systems impart courage and commitment to decisions made in autonomy. Teachers are in pole position to provide much-needed support to student academic endeavors. School setups allow for instrumental instruction usable in instilling productive behavior. In addition to fostering social knowledge, teachers can help students develop productive practices such as self-control, commitment, accountability, and attention (Budge & Parrett, 2017). Instructors can also diversify teaching to ensure they impart students with skills relevant to academic competence. This calls for differentiated instruction to bring out the best in every student. Teachers can diversify instructions to ensure they nurture productivity through the learning process.

Student-Based Interventions.

Psychology and developmental neurology studies peg much of the influence of poverty on education to the anatomical development of the brain. Chronic poverty undoubtedly inhibits neuronal development rendering children from low-income families incapacitated in cognitive capabilities. Interventions need to adopt strategic approaches to resolve the phonological, linguistic, and mathematical inefficiencies inflicted by poverty. The underdeveloped frontal cortex is responsible for delayed phonological and cognitive capabilities. Also, students from poor backgrounds have mild exposure to formal diction, deterring their linguistic abilities. Snippets in speech demonstrate the inefficient exposure to linguistically engaging childhoods (Hair et al., 2015; Payne, 2019). Being incapacitated at one point does not rule out students from poor families from garnering cognitive prowess. Under congruent and careful instruction, they hold the potential to blossom into academic achievers. Student-based interventions can be broken down into three broad categories; academic, social, and self-control.

Academic Performance.

Among the detrimental effects of poverty is the implication on cognitive capabilities. Growing up without adequate resources, children are exposed to inadequate heating, food, shelter, and healthcare. These stunt cognitive developments (Hair et al., 2015; Jensen, 2009; Payne, 2019; Van der Berg, 2008). Academic interventions target underdeveloped cognitive abilities, fostering growth for productivity. Reasonable approaches would seek to unlock the underdeveloped cognitive potential. The Montessori-based exercises have produced exemplary mind unlocking results. Activities include aerobics, focus, concentration, and purposeful movement (Patten & Bodden, 2019). Additional cognitive interventions include cognitive computer training and mind-engaging physical activities such as yoga and martial arts. These extracurricular activities are combined with differentiated learning for optimal productivity.

Teachers can centralize differentiated learning to allow greater student engagement for academic outcomes. Prowess is attainable in instructions that foster individual initiative to learn, goal setting, and feedback. Differentiated instructions allow teachers a personalized touch with students. Tomlinson (2017) identifies relatable evidence equating academic performance to differentiated teaching approaches. According to him, differentiated approaches to popular pedagogy allow an understanding of student learning profiles, interest, and readiness in the subject being taught. The approach helps set reasonable personalized goals that both the teacher and the student can work towards. Such academic interventions also create an air of friendliness between the student and teacher enriching the teaching-learning experience. Such flexibility allows for personalized goal-setting, independent thinking, purposeful commitment to learning, and valuable feedback. Academic competence is instilled in the students in a gradual and effective process ensuring better performance.

Social Skills.

Payne (2019), a renowned educator and psychologist argue that children from poor families bring with them a set of hidden cultural beliefs, attitudes, and behavior. Most of these culture-informed social skills hinder smooth interactions. Rough childhoods are known to instill apathy, hypervigilance, distractability, and aggression (Jensen, 2019). These social cues make it hard for children from low-income families to create meaningful social relations with others. While some studies find no correlation between the quality of social interactions and academic performance, it is evident strained relations act as distractors. A study undertaken by Borman & Overman (2004) established a 12% increase in mathematical after fostering respectful interactions. Developing social skills, therefore, presents a rich opportunity for collaboration and meaningful interactions. Disrespect is the root of aggressive fights, name-calling, and enmity at school. Quality social skills, however, foster a cohesive student community with little to no commotion. Friendly classmates are bound to effectively collaborate in academic projects, revisions, and discussions; undertakings that contribute to academic excellence.

Irritability and aggression land people in trouble all the time. They are reasons for multiple student expulsions and disciplinary courting. Appropriate social skills diversify attitudes, making it easy for students to collaborate with teachers and other students. Social skills also develop problem-solving skills necessary throughout life. Durlak et al. (2011) established significant implications to academic performance in the development of social and emotional skills. The change in behavior, attitudes and social skills influence improved academic performance. In addition to the in-school benefits of improving student social skills, they are prepared to become better citizens in the community. Social skills are an integral aspect of human life. Instigating them in children from impoverished backgrounds dispels unwanted behavior allowing them to better interact with others for academic excellence.


The underdeveloped frontal cortex combined with the debilitating experience of living in poverty contributes to the development of poor self-regulation mechanisms. The explanation is supported by neural and psychological development studies (Hair et al., 2015; E. Jensen, 2009; Payne, 2019; Van der Berg, 2008). Blair & Raver (2014) studies 759 kindergarten children from poor families for self-regulatory functions. Conclusive evidence gathered illustrates diminished self-control functions in a majority of these children. Noble et al. (2006) based similar studies on neuroscience. In their study, they explored the readiness and functionality of neurocognitive systems. Findings pointed out significant deficiencies in children from low social-economic classes. Cognitive control was identified as underdeveloped, attributing to the reduced functional self-regulation. Studies affirm the inefficiencies in self-regulatory systems for children from high-poverty families. Through effective and strategic interventions, these deficiencies can be combated to allow the students better self-control.

Empathy and mindfulness are among interventions that could be taught to bolster self-control. Meaningful interactions demand empathic reactions. Numerous studies question the capacity to train empathy in non-empathic individuals. Behavioral psychologists see it as an impossibility. Neuroscience specialists, however, assert the adaptability of a human mind to learn identified skills. Empathy ensures sensitive reaction, reduced irritability, and alleviation of apathy. These are emotional qualities characteristic of children raised in chronic poverty (Jensen, 2019). Training students to be mindful and empathic improves social interaction across cultures (Case & Brauner, 2010). Self-control is an integral aspect of quality interaction and can be developed through effective behavioral interventions.


Schooling years are tumultuous and involve intense emotional and hormonal activity. Growing up in poverty renders children vulnerable to adverse social effects. The encounters shape values, norms, beliefs, and set rules (Jensen, 2019; Payne, 2019). Poor urban areas are pooled with violence, crime, psychological, and social pathological disorders (Tine, 2017). Children raised in such environments are susceptible to developing apathy, aggressiveness, hypervigilance, and violence. These functions remain adolescent risk factors that could alter academic trajectories. Pinterits et al. (2013) applied Bronfenbrenner's ecological model and identify a significant propensity of interventions to develop teenage resilience against the surge of unhealthy poor environment. Strength-based interventions foster the creation of mental resilience to behavioral, social, emotional, and academic effects of poverty.

Student resilience can be developed in a three-tier school intervention. First, the school should promote social comfort and a caring atmosphere. The transitions and notable difference between the erratic and violent poverty-0struck neighborhood children are raised and school setting should instill a culture of caring. Although the environments are drastically different, the variance and comfort accorded can ensure smooth transition and development.

The second tier involves the capacity building of identified protective features. It takes time to build utmost resilience against the constant bombardment of values, norms, and attitudes. Teachers and school leaders at this development stage should build student capacity to solve problems, interact, and grow independence. These values transition in real life to protective capacities against social risks imposed by the community. Students can also learn to cherish individual preferences socially and interactively. A final tier involves mentorships for children from low-income families. Teenage brains remain plastic and capable of growth (Noble et al., 2006). After teenagers develop considerable resilience, metros can channel them along desirable paths. Bolstering resilience against the impacts of poverty counts as a critical intervention to counteract the effects of impoverished upbringing on education.

Some of the individualized mitigation strategies proposed to involve teacher and parent input to enhance children learning abilities. Durlak et al. (2011) suggest enhancing student behavior, emotions, attitudes, and social skills to improve their academic performance. Jennings & Greenberg (2009) propose teachers’ social-emotional competence as the solution to the prevalent low academic performance by children from low-income families. Structural mitigations include equity in access to facilities and opportunities for all. This study acknowledges the inefficiency of either of these mitigation strategies as affirmed by Raffo et al. (2007). Examined conceptual guidelines draw on the lacking cohesive mitigation strategies that blend structural and individual approaches. This study aims to identify, examine, and propose holistic mitigation strategies for the effects of poverty on teaching and learning in schools.


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