Lack of Education Creates Poverty
Economic disparity both in the United States and across the globe has become a matter for continued conversation and debate, especially in recent years. And even without research or statistics to back it up, most people are well aware of the fact that poverty is both a cause and an effect of lack of access to adequate education. In other words, poverty is cyclical in nature and if those in poverty are not given the tools they need to succeed, this cycle is difficult or impossible to break.
The link between the socioeconomic status of school-aged children and their performance in school has long been known: as far back as 1966, the Coleman Report documented the fact that students from lower-income families did more poorly in school than their middle- or upper-income bracket counterparts. This is not just true in the United States. More recent research from the Program for International Student Assessment found this pattern to hold true for the 13 other countries besides the United States that were part of its study. New research out of Stanford also confirms the fact that the achievement gap based on social class is wider than that which is based on race.
Poorer students are more likely to drop out of school or only receive a high school education, which only continues the cycle of poverty that can sometimes stretch on for generations in the same family or community. In contrast with dropouts or those with only a high school diploma, those with more education are statistically more likely to have higher income and earning potential, to be more capable of improving their quality of life and to have increased participation in the community and decreased marginalization. Education is thus an excellent tool by which families and individuals can pull themselves up out of their impoverished circumstances. However, schools are increasingly failing to provide the access to the education and experiences needed for low-income children to be successful. Neither the No Child Left Behind policy created by Bush nor the emphasis on school efficiency and opening of more charter schools developed by the Obama administration seem able to get to the root of this problem.
So what are some possible solutions to break the viciousness of this cycle? One way seems to be by providing low-income parents with access to high-quality early childhood education and preschool: multiple studies have shown that children who come out of these programs show a significantly higher academic performance that those who did not. However, the assistance should not stop there. Many schools around the United States are developing after-school and summer programs which help enrich and support the experiences of lower-income students, experiences that middle- and upper-income children often receive at home as a matter of course. New York’s “Say Yes to Education” program and Nebraska’s “Building Brighter Futures” are good examples of this increased support — and of the higher achievement levels which result from it. This is not just the case in the United States, either. Finland, whose students have famously high achievement scores, furnishes under-serviced students with free food and health care, assesses developmental delays early on in a child’s academic career and provides counseling and social support throughout the school-aged years. This program has proven highly successful at steering poorer children up out of poverty.
The fact remains that the causes of poverty are complex, and there is no one simple answer to alleviate it. However, enough research has shown that access to education and continued social support and enrichment is one way to decrease economic disparity and for that fact alone, these programs should be heavily invested in. It makes sense not only for the good of the children but for society as a whole.
by The Great Gathering
Copyright The Great Gathering 2014©