ETS Report Warns of Child Poverty and its Consequences

One-fifth of U.S. Children Officially "Poor" and 2.8 Million in "Extreme Poverty"

PRINCETON, N.J., July 24, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- While the United States is among the 35 richest countries in the world, it also holds the distinction of ranking second highest in child poverty, according to a new report from Educational Testing Service (ETS). Such poverty comes with a price — $500 billion per year in lower earnings, less taxes paid, and other long-term economic and educational outcomes. 

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The report, Poverty and Education: Finding the Way Forward, was written by Richard J. Coley, Executive Director of the Center for Research on Human Capital and Education at ETS, and Rutgers University Graduate School of Education professor Bruce Baker. They provide an overview of how poverty is measured, describe how various levels of government attempt to address poverty through education, and review the relationship between poverty and student outcomes. The report also offers seven recommendations that are necessary to ensure that the public education system prepares every student to be successful in an increasingly competitive world.

"One aim of this report is to review the relationship between poverty and educational and other important life outcomes and to provide a clearer and more nuanced picture of poverty in America, as well as an understanding of how government attempts to address poverty — particularly from an education perspective," says Coley. "Another aim is to consider the important issue of how poverty is officially measured in the United States and explore several additional aspects of income and poverty that broaden the perspective."

According to the report, 46.2 million Americans (15 percent of the population) were in poverty in 2011. Other data show:

  • While White Americans comprise the largest number of people in poverty, the poverty rate for Hispanics and Blacks is significantly higher.
  • Twenty-two percent of the nation's children are in poverty.
  • While 6 percent of married-couple families were poor, the poverty rate for families headed by a single female was 31 percent. 
  • 2.8 million children were in "extreme poverty," surviving on less than $2 or less per person per day in a given month.

"While education has been envisioned as the great equalizer, this promise has been more myth than reality," adds Baker. "Not only is the achievement gap between the poor and the non-poor twice as large as the achievement gap between Black and White students, but tracked differences in the cognitive performances of students in every age group show substantial differences by income or poverty status. These differences undoubtedly contribute to the increasing stratification of who attends and graduates from college, limiting economic and social mobility and serving to perpetuate the gap between rich and poor."

The report documents the negative effects of poverty on later life outcomes. For example: 

  • Children growing up in poverty complete less schooling, work and earn less as adults, are more likely to receive public assistance, and have poorer health.
  • Boys growing up in poverty are more likely to be arrested as adults.
  • Girls growing up in poverty are more likely to give birth outside of marriage.
  • Costs associated with child poverty are estimated to total about $500 billion per year.

The challenges illustrated in the report represent systemic and structural inequalities that are particularly challenging in the current economic climate, Coley notes. Yet these challenges point the way toward strategies for moderating the influence of poverty on educational outcomes. The authors offer recommendations in seven areas that are within the purview of education policymakers, including: 

  • Increasing awareness of the incidence of poverty and its consequences
  • Equitably and adequately funding our schools
  • Broadening access to high-quality preschool education
  • Reducing segregation and isolation
  • Adopting effective school practices
  • Recognizing the importance of a high-quality teacher workforce
  • Improving the measurement of poverty

Copies of the report can be downloaded from www.ets.org/research.

About ETS
At ETS, we advance quality and equity in education for people worldwide by creating assessments based on rigorous research. ETS serves individuals, educational institutions and government agencies by providing customized solutions for teacher certification, English language learning, and elementary, secondary and post-secondary education, as well as conducting education research, analysis and policy studies. Founded as a nonprofit in 1947, ETS develops, administers and scores more than 50 million tests annually — including the TOEFL® and TOEIC ® tests, the GRE ® tests and The Praxis Series™ assessments — in more than 180 countries, at over 9,000 locations worldwide. www.ets.org

SOURCE Educational Testing Service



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