Poverty and Education

south park kenny poor

I wrote this for a class on multiculturalism in education, based on an article from Annual Editions- Education.

The article is about statistics involving children and poverty, as well as the myriad shortcomings of those statistics. Some methods might obscure the needs of a family (IE- the poverty threshold) whereas some might exaggerate their needs (benefits from programs that assist low-income families are typically not included in calculations of their resources.) The article then considers potential solutions to the problem, such as methods of making work pay more (an increased minimum wage or EITC: Earned Income Tax Credits), increased financial support for parents of young children, and methods of asset accumulation.

Three key facts the author uses to support the article are…

  • 21 percent of children live in families that are considered officially poor (equivalent to 15.3 million children as of 2009) and nine percent of children live in extremely poor households (equivalent to 6.8 million children as of 2009.)
  • Certain groups are more likely to live in poverty than others. 36 percent of African-American children live in poor families, along with 34 percent of American Indian children, and 33 percent of Hispanic children, compared to 12 percent of white children. 27 percent of children in immigrant families are poor, compared to 19 percent of children with native-born parents.
  • The poverty threshold is set at three times the cost of food, and adjusted for family size and inflation. This can be problematic, as other costs (health care, housing, etc) have risen at a higher rate.

I’ve read a lot on poverty, its effects on children and the numerous proposed fixes. It was an interest of mine before I entered a program for a degree in education. It’s a controversial topic discussed in much of the media I consume (newspapers, magazines and informational blogs.) A significant problem is that many of the solutions are political, rather than representing anything an individual teacher can do. It’s up to legislators, and elected executives (Mayors, Governors and Presidents) to determine if it’s advantageous to increase subsidies and program eligibilities.

I’m in favor of the Earned Income Tax Credit, as a method of providing more money to families where it’s needed. It seems to work better in that function that increasing the minimum wage, which provides as much of a salary increase to a single person with no dependents, as it does to married parents or single mothers. If there’s any resulting increase in unemployment, people with dependents (and less flexible schedules) would be hurt most. A plan that I liked that would help with asset accumulation is to provide incentives for banks to provide zero-interest savings accounts, perhaps as a condition for accepting federal insurance benefits. That would help poor Americans save money for emergencies, or until they have enough to qualify for a savings account that yields interest.

The main implication for the classroom is to consider the needs of the poorest students. As a teacher, I can’t assume that students would be able to afford certain supplemental material. Many parents are unaware of available resources, so there might be methods for schools to help with that, connecting low-income parents with people more knowledgeable about the bureaucracy.

About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. You can email me at mistermets@gmail.com
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