The Effects of Growing Up Poor
Childhood poverty creates a devastating ripple effect that can last a lifetime. Here's how you can help.
Approximately 40 million Americans live in poverty—15 million of them children. That's 21 percent of all kids in the U.S., a rate that's among the highest in the industrialized world. The sobering statistics don't stop there. An estimated 15 million more kids live in families that have an income above the official poverty line but that are still barely scraping by.
"Poor children—compared with those who do not grow up in poverty—for a variety of reasons, are more likely to have worse physical and mental health, to die earlier, to experience more disability, and to be socially and economically disadvantaged in adulthood," said Catherine Cubbin, Ph.D., associate dean for research, Steve Hicks School of Social Work at University of Texas at Austin, in an interview with WalletHub.
Without access to proper nutrition, health care, and education—and often deprived of interaction with parents who are working multiple jobs to make ends meet—a child's mental, physical, and emotional development may suffer. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty and Children International, some of the negative effects of an economically poor childhood include:
- Compromised cognitive function
- Impaired development of brain regions that regulate attention, memory, and emotions
- Lower academic scores in reading and math
- Health issues
- Behavioral and emotional problems
Kids who experience poverty early in childhood and/or those whose economic insecurity persists for years face the greatest risk for these problems.
"It’s important to keep in mind that poverty is disproportionate among some groups, including African American, Latinx, and American Indian/Native Alaskan children, with rates far higher than that among white children," said Dr. Cubbin.
Ready to do your part to help millions of kids get the basics for survival? Here are four charities Parents.com considers worthy in the fight against childhood poverty:
Save the Children
A nonprofit humanitarian relief and development organization working in more than 40 countries and the United States to create lasting, positive change in the lives of children in need. savethechildren.org
National Head Start Association
A private not-for-profit membership organization dedicated exclusively to meeting the needs of Head Start children and their families. Head Start is a national program that provides comprehensive education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families. nhsa.org
A nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children living in dire poverty. children.org
Children's Defense Fund
A private, nonprofit organization that works toward reducing the numbers of neglected, sick, uneducated, and poor children in the United States. childrensdefense.org