Consequences of Growing Up Poor

Consequences of Growing Up Poor

Greg J. Duncan
Jeanne Brooks-Gunn
Copyright Date: 1997
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 672
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    Consequences of Growing Up Poor
    Book Description:

    One in five American children now live in families with incomes below the povertyline, and their prospects are not bright. Low income is statistically linked with a variety of poor outcomes for children, from low birth weight and poor nutrition in infancy to increased chances of academic failure, emotional distress, and unwed childbirth in adolescence. To address these problems it is not enough to know that money makes a difference; we need to understand how.Consequences of Growing Up Pooris an extensive and illuminating examination of the paths through which economic deprivation damages children at all stages of their development.

    InConsequences of Growing Up Poor, developmental psychologists, economists, and sociologists revisit a large body of studies to answer specific questions about how low income puts children at risk intellectually, emotionally, and physically. Many of their investigations demonstrate that although income clearly creates disadvantages, it does so selectively and in a wide variety of ways. Low-income preschoolers exhibit poorer cognitive and verbal skills because they are generally exposed to fewer toys, books, and other stimulating experiences in the home. Poor parents also tend to rely on home-based child care, where the quality and amount of attention children receive is inferior to that of professional facilities. In later years, conflict between economically stressed parents increases anxiety and weakens self-esteem in their teenaged children.

    Although they share economic hardships, the home lives of poor children are not homogenous.Consequences of Growing Up Poorinvestigates whether such family conditions as the marital status, education, and involvement of parents mitigate the ill effects of poverty.Consequences of Growing Up Pooralso looks at the importance of timing: Does being poor have a different impact on preschoolers, children, and adolescents? When are children most vulnerable to poverty? Some contributors find that poverty in the prenatal or early childhood years appears to be particularly detrimental to cognitive development and physical health. Others offer evidence that lower income has a stronger negative effect during adolescence than in childhood or adulthood.

    Based on their findings, the editors and contributors toConsequences of Growing Up Poorrecommend more sharply focused child welfare policies targeted to specific eras and conditions of poor children's lives. They also weigh the relative need for income supplements, child care subsidies, and home interventions.Consequences of Growing Up Poordescribes the extent and causes of hardships for poor children, defines the interaction between income and family, and offers solutions to improve young lives.

    JEANNE BROOKS-GUNNis Virginia and Leonard Marx Professor of Child Development at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is also director of the Center for Young Children and Families, and co-directs the Adolescent Study Program at Teachers College.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-826-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Chapter 1 Poor Families, Poor Outcomes: The Well-Being of Children and Youth
    (pp. 1-17)
    Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Greg J. Duncan and Nancy Maritato

    In any given year from 1987 to 1996, about one in five of all American children—some twelve to fourteen million—lived in families in which total income failed to exceed even the spartan thresholds used to define poverty. That so many of the youngest citizens of the wealthiest nation in the world are living poor is cause for concern. Indeed, the United States has a higher rate of poverty than most other Western industrialized nations (Smeeding and Rainwater 1995). And that child poverty has increased since the 1970s is also troubling (Hernandez 1993; see chapter 2). This volume explores...

  4. Chapter 2 Poverty Trends
    (pp. 18-34)
    Donald J. Hernandez

    This chapter addresses three questions: How have children’s poverty rates changed since the Great Depression, especially from 1973 to 1993? To what extent can changes in income from fathers, mothers, other relatives, and the government and the rise in mother-only families account for these poverty trends? What are the explanations for the historic changes in fathers’ and mothers’ income and the rise in mother-only families?

    Childhood poverty rates have changed enormously since the Great Depression. Childhood poverty as measured by U.S. Bureau of the Census official poverty rates fell sharply during the 1960s (see figure 2.1). Since then, but especially...

  5. Chapter 3 Parent Absence or Poverty: Which Matters More?
    (pp. 35-48)
    Sara S. McLanahan

    Poverty and economic insecurity, though important determinants of successful child development, are not the only factors affecting children’s well-being. Parents’ education, the number of siblings, and the presence or absence of both parents in the household also govern the quality and quantity of parental resources and ultimately children’s development. In this chapter I focus on one of these factors: whether both parents live in the household. Whereas two of the parental resources above have been changing in ways that favor child development—more parental education, fewer siblings—the proportion of children growing up with both biological parents declined dramatically from...

  6. Chapter 4 Trends in the Economic Well-Being and Life Chances of America’s Children
    (pp. 49-69)
    Susan E. Mayer

    Children raised in poor families are more likely than affluent children to drop out of high school and to have a baby as a teenager. When poor children grow up, they get less education, are less likely to work, earn lower wages when they do, and are more likely to become single parents than affluent children. A common view is that the economic well-being of children’s families began to deteriorate in the 1970s, and that, as a consequence, children’s chances for success also deteriorated.

    The first section of this chapter describes the theories that try to explain why parents’ income...

  7. Chapter 5 Effects of Long-Term Poverty on Physical Health of Children in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth
    (pp. 70-99)
    Sanders Korenman and Jane E. Miller

    An important step in understanding the disadvantages associated with poverty in the United States is a recognition of the dynamic nature of poverty for individuals and families and the implications of poverty dynamics for assessing its effects (Bane and Ellwood 1986; Duncan and Rodgers 1991; Duncan 1994a). In their analysis of data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, Ashworth, Hill, and Walker (1994) found that 38 percent of children born between 1969 and 1973 experienced poverty in at least one year before reaching age fifteen. Poverty patterns were heterogeneous: of the children who had been poor, 25 percent had...

  8. Chapter 6 Poverty and Patterns of Child Care
    (pp. 100-131)
    The NICHD Early Child Care Research Network

    Child care has moved to center stage in federal and state policies designed to address the problems of poor families. In the past, child care was linked to federal policies designed to reduce poverty, either as a support for parents as they work or as a vehicle for preventing poverty in the next generation through early intervention. In the late 1990s infant child care for families in poverty is of acute interest in light of proposed reforms in welfare policy that would require parents to participate in the work force as early as thirteen weeks after an infant is born....

  9. Chapter 7 Consequences of Living in Poverty for Young Children’s Cognitive and Verbal Ability and Early School Achievement
    (pp. 132-189)
    Judith R. Smith, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and Pamela K. Klebanov

    Although living in poverty has adverse consequences for children, how it actually influences children’s outcomes is not well understood. Does a family’s income poverty affect children’s ability to learn or to achieve in school? Does the extent or timing of a family’s poverty have ramifications for children’s cognitive development? How does living in a single-parent family already stressed by poverty influence a child’s learning capacity? Can a parent provide an enriched home environment that compensates for a low family income?

    Most work comparing outcomes such as cognition, language, school achievement, and behavior problems in the poor and nonpoor has focused...

  10. Chapter 8 Economic Resources, Parental Practices, and Children’s Well-Being
    (pp. 190-238)
    Thomas L. Hanson, Sara McLanahan and Elizabeth Thomson

    Research has shown that poverty has harmful consequences for children. Children from economically disadvantaged families exhibit lower levels of physical development, cognitive functioning, academic achievement, selfesteem, social development, and self-control than do children from more advantaged families (see, for example, Duncan, Brooks-Gunn, and Klebanov 1994; Elder, Nguyen, and Caspi 1985; Huston 1991a; McLoyd 1990; Miller and Korenman 1993). Many of these disadvantages are precursors to economic and emotional problems in young adulthood (McLanahan and Sandefur 1994; Haveman and Wolfe 1994). Persistent economic disadvantage has been found to be particularly harmful to children’s development (Duncan, Brooks-Gunn, and Klebanov 1994; Miller and...

  11. Chapter 9 Psychosocial Morbidity Among Poor Children in Ontario
    (pp. 239-287)
    Ellen L. Lipman and David R. Offord

    In Canada, one child in five is exposed to poverty. Among children under eighteen years old, 1.4 million were poor in 1993, a poverty rate of 20.8 percent (National Council on Welfare [NCW] 1995). Poverty places children at risk for a wide range of health and psychosocial difficulties.

    Research has demonstrated repeatedly that poor children have significantly more psychosocial difficulties than nonpoor children do, including more mental and physical health problems, academic difficulties, and social difficulties (Lipman, Offord, and Boyle 1994; Offord, Boyle, and Jones 1987; Rutter et al. 1975; Berger, Yule, and Rutter 1975). For example, in terms of...

  12. Chapter 10 Family Economic Hardship and Adolescent Adjustment: Mediating and Moderating Processes
    (pp. 288-310)
    Rand D. Conger, Katherine Jewsbury Conger and Glen H. Elder Jr.

    In this chapter we first consider the influence of economic hardship on the school performance of rural adolescents over a four-year period from seventh to tenth grade, building upon initial analyses from the Infant Health and Development Program (IHDP) (see chapter 1). We replicated the earlier research as closelyas possible using a sample of adolescents who provided information regarding their grade point averages (GPAs). Despite differences in the samples and outcomes, we found substantial similarities between the earlier analyses and our own.

    For the second phase of the inquiry we substituted externalizing and internalizing problems for GPA and reapated the...

  13. Chapter 11 The Influence of Poverty on Children’s Classroom Placement and Behavior Problems
    (pp. 311-339)
    Linda Pagani, Bernard Boulerice and Richard E. Tremblay

    The long-term negative effects of poor school achievement and behavior problems have been well documented in both prospective and retrospective longitudinal research. Using data from the birth cohort of the 1958 British National Child Development Study, Power, Manor, and Fox (1991) observed that behavior problems (followed by failure to finish high school) at age sixteen were the best predictors of poor physical and mental health in men and women at age twenty-four. Similar results were obtained in smaller longitudinal studies in Britain, Finland, Sweden, and the United States (for example, Farrington 1994; Rodgers 1990; Pulkkinen 1990; Pulkkinen and Tremblay 1992;...

  14. Chapter 12 The Role of Family Income and Sources of Income in Adolescent Achievement
    (pp. 340-381)
    H. Elizabeth Peters and Natalie C. Mullis

    The concurrent increase in poverty rates and welfare expenditures since the 1970s raises important questions. If children grow up in impoverished homes, how much harder is it for them to succeed than their economically advantaged counterparts? To what extent is the U.S. welfare system acting as a safety net, and to what extent does long-term welfare receipt have negative consequences for children? Many children fall into poverty because their parents divorce or separate or were never married. How does child support receipt affect children’s well-being and outcomes?

    In this chapter we estimate the effects of family income, long-term poverty, welfare...

  15. Chapter 13 Poverty During Adolescence and Subsequent Educational Attainment
    (pp. 382-418)
    Jay D. Teachman, Kathleen M. Paasch, Randal D. Day and Karen P. Carver

    The immediate effects of poverty on the living conditions, nutrition and physical and emotional health of children are relatively well documented (Mare 1982; McLeod and Shanahan 1993; McLoyd 1990; Miller and Korenman 1994a, 1994b; Parker, Greer, and Zuckerman 1988). Less evidence is available on the longer-term consequences of poverty for children. This chapter focuses on the potential link between the experience of poverty in adolescence and subsequent educational achievement.

    A variety of evidence linking events and circumstances in childhood to outcomes in later life suggests that a childhood lived in poverty may have lasting effects. A substantial body of literature...

  16. Chapter 14 Childhood Poverty and Adolescent Schooling and Fertility Outcomes: Reduced-Form and Structural Estimates
    (pp. 419-460)
    Robert Haveman, Barbara Wolfe and Kathryn Wilson

    The literature on the determinants of children’s attainments has focused on the effects of families’ circumstances and choices (for example, parental education, family income, or family structure) and neighborhood characteristics (for example, the percentage of high school dropouts in the neighborhood or of professional workers). The viewpoint of this research, consistent with a variety of models in all of the social sciences, is that children are products of their home, their family and its circumstances, their peers, and their environments, and the effort is to reliably identify the elements or timing of each with the most important effects (see Haveman...

  17. Chapter 15 Race, Sex, and the Intergenerational Transmission of Poverty
    (pp. 461-517)
    Mary Corcoran and Terry Adams

    The study described in this chapter estimates the extent to which income poverty persists across generations and tests four alternative explanations for this persistence. That is, we ask, “How much and why are poor children destined to remain poor as adults?”

    Considerable research, beginning with Sewell and Hauser’s (1975) pioneering study, has documented an association between fathers’ incomes and sons’ earnings. Sewell and Hauser found that parental income predicted sons’ earnings even with schooling and test scores controlled. When other analysts replicated Sewell and Hauser’s analyses using other data sets, they obtained similar results (Hauser and Daymont 1977; Jencks et...

  18. Chapter 16 The Effects of Parents’ Income, Wealth and Attitudes on Children’s Completed Schooling and Self-Esteem
    (pp. 518-540)
    William Axinn, Greg J. Duncan and Arland Thornton

    Early work on the intergenerational transmission of socioeconomic status relied on cross-sectional surveys and retrospectively reported measures of parental characteristics such as completed schooling and occupation. Prospective data, gathered from parents while children are young and later when the children reach adulthood, provide opportunities to link richer measures of family characteristics, in particular family income, to adult attainments. Most studies based on data that include reliable measures of parental income find that it is a significant correlate of children’s eventual economic success as adults (see Corcoran, Gordon, Laren, Solon 1992; Haveman and Wolfe 1995 for recent reviews of this literature)....

  19. Chapter 17 Does Poverty in Adolescence Affect the Life Chances of High School Graduates?
    (pp. 541-595)
    Robert M. Hauser and Megan M. Sweeney

    For more than thirty-five years, the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS) has followed a cohort of more than 10,000 men and women who graduated from high school in 1957. The sample was followed up in 1964, 1975, and, most recently, in 1992–93. The WLS is best known for having developed a social psychological model that accounts for the effects of social background and mental ability on postsecondary schooling and occupational careers (Sewell and Hauser 1992a, 1992b). In 1991–94, a cross-disciplinary team of researchers again followed up the WLS sample at ages fifty-three and fifty-four, and a broad array of...

  20. Chapter 18 Income Effects Across the Life Span: Integration and Interpretation
    (pp. 596-610)
    Greg J. Duncan and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn

    The goal of this volume has been to forge a consensus on how and how much childhood poverty affects the life chances of children by using longitudinal data from the developmental studies in chapters 5–17. To this end, the authors of those chapters performed a replication analysis: they included the same set of measures—family income, maternal schooling, and family structure—in a regression model predicting child outcomes. The limited measures in these replication models provide a “black-box” estimate of the role of family income, adjusted statistically for the fact that low-income families are more likely to have a...

  21. References
    (pp. 611-642)
  22. Index
    (pp. 643-660)