According to a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics, childhood poverty in the United States is on the rise, and poverty’s negative impacts on the learning process are likely to begin in kindergarten.
The report, The Condition of Education 2015, showed that students who live below the poverty level were less likely to have positive approaches to learning such as staying organized, paying attention in class and showing an enthusiasm for learning compared to students who came from more well-off families.
Students who were more likely to have positive approaches to learning included female students, students who started the school year being older, those from two-parent households, and those whose family income were at least twice the poverty threshold. Meanwhile, males, black students, and those whose parents did not have a high school diploma did not tend to do as well.
In addition, those who exhibited positive approaches to learning in kindergarten were more likely to perform better in first grade.
“Research suggests that living in poverty during early childhood is associated with lower than average academic performance that begins in kindergarten and extends through elementary and high school,” the report says. “Living in poverty during early childhood is also associated with lower than average rates of school completion.”
The goal of the report is to offer Congress a view of the public education system in the United States through a mix of data including enrollment, test scores, and surveys completed by educators which reflect their views, writes Rebecca Klein for The Huffington Post.
Poverty has not only been shown to affect a child’s ability to complete school, but also comes at a cost to the government. A report from Harry Holzer of Georgetown University and a number of co-authors found that childhood poverty costs the country $500 billion each year through weaker productivity, increased crime rates, and a rise in health care costs.
As of 2013, 21% of children across the country, or 10.9 million, came from families living in poverty, a full 6 percentage points above 2000’s level. Since 2008, childhood poverty levels have risen for every major racial group. The report found that as of 2013, 39% of blacks, 36% of American Indians and Alaska natives, and 13% of whites and Asians were living in poverty.
The report did mention that the achievement gap between black and whites aged 25 to 29 who at least held a high school diploma has declined, and that school crime is continuing its 20-year decrease.
In addition, the number of students participating in math and science are on the rise. The report found that in 2009, 30% of high school graduates had taken physics, biology and chemistry, an increase of 3 percentage points from 2005.