This study says that few children suffer chronic poverty, but way too many students face some poverty. And that’s enough to inhibit their development. Poverty is by far the most significant factor influencing students’ educational development. The pervasiveness of poverty, not its chronic nature, is a significant problem for our society.
Child poverty and economic hardship can have significant consequences for children’s development and life chances. Growing up in poverty can be harmful to children’s cognitive development and ability to succeed in school, to their social and emotional well-being, and to their health. Children who experience hardship when they are young and children who live in persistent and severe poverty are at the greatest risk. Moreover, child poverty costs our society an estimated $500 billion a year in lost productivity and increased spending on health care and the criminal justice system.
We find that although only a small share of children experience persistent, chronic poverty, children who do are much more likely to be poor as adults. We also find that African-American children are more likely than white children to experience poverty, and even when they spend similar amounts of time living in poverty during childhood, they are more likely to be poor as adults. We conclude by making policy recommendations for improving the life chances of children who grow up in poverty by both increasing family income in the short-term and mitigating the impact of poverty on child outcomes.