The Effects of Socioeconomic Status on Children

Socioeconomic status is calculated from family income, occupation, highest level of education completed and community social status. Children from more affluent homes benefit from less stressed parenting, access to education, services and healthcare. Low-income children experience negative effects of poverty through childhood and into their adult years.

  1. Family Life

    • According to editor Jose J. Escarce’s report published in "Health Services Research" in 2003, the most enduring effect of socioeconomic status for children is on the family structure. As divorce rates increase, poverty rates increase as more families are headed by single parents. Lower-income families may have fewer resources to care for children. The added parental stress negatively affects children. Parents may not be emotionally or physically present to attend to children’s needs. High-income communities have access to better services for children, such as parks, quality schools, hospitals and community centers. Low-income children may miss out on many opportunities because of the neighborhoods they occupy and their socioeconomic status.


    • Socioeconomic status heavily affects the quality of education children receive. Low-income children begin school with a lower level of readiness than their middle class counterparts. Their parents may not be able to buy them educational toys and provide access to enriching activities that parents with a higher income can. Children in poorer neighborhoods must attend lower functioning schools with less funding. Jose J. Escarce states in his report that high-income children receive better grades and have access to more qualified teachers. Lower-economic status is also associated with less parental involvement, which negatively affects academic outcome. These children have a higher risk of dropping out of school before graduation.


    • Children of low socioeconomic status experience poorer health than those of higher status. They are often uninsured and lack access to healthcare. Low-income children are less likely to receive dental care as well. They experience higher incidence of accidents and nutrition-related diseases. Jose J. Escarce’s report on children’s socioeconomic status and health states that there is an inverse relationship between financial means and levels of health in children. The disparity of health status among poor and more affluent children begins in early toddlerhood and widens throughout childhood.

    Behavioral Concerns

    • Adolescents living in single parent homes may be less supervised because of the long hours the parent must work. Less supervised teenagers are more likely to experiment with smoking, drugs, alcohol and sexual activity. Children from low-income families are more likely to exhibit a variety behavioral problems. A child’s mother’s income correlates to higher scores for the child on the Child Behavioral Problems Index.

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