The Millennium Cohort Study in England, following 19,000 young children, has issued a report on the connections between poverty and cognitive development. It’s one of the first studies of its kind and confirms what most of us would “guess”–but even more so. Here are several interesting findings.

  • First, while any poverty will affect children negatively, persistent poverty and poverty at birth are even worse.
  • The differences between children in poverty and those who are not are as large as what you would find in children from homes with college educated moms and moms with minimal education.
  • Persistent poverty has a greater impact than whether parents read to their children, take them to the library, or help them with schoolwork.
  • While previous studies have shown that parenting affects children’s cognitive development, this one shows that poverty affects not just the child’s cognitive development (no matter what the parent does) but also the parent’s ability to parent.
  • Finally, being born into poverty has worse effects than intermittent or episodic poverty.

Focusing on test scores and even on early childhood education are less than drops in a bucket when poverty and its effects are ignored. Anyone who’s committed to improving education for children has also got to be committed to eradicating poverty–for the children’s sake. Else we are just throwing money at the problem and spinning our wheels.

Think about it,

Babette

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