Understanding Poverty

Click through the stages below to learn more about the poverty lifecycle.

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United States Poverty Rate
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Kansas Poverty Rate
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Kansas child poverty rate
Number of Black and Hispanic Kansas children below 200% poverty level
  • Children born into poverty are more likely to have low birth weight, higher infant mortality, delayed or poor language development, chronic illness, negative environmental exposures, and poor nutrition.
  • Children born into poverty are also more likely to have impaired genomic function and brain development by exposure to toxic stress, a condition characterized by “excessive or prolonged activation of the physiologic stress response systems in absence of the buffering protection afforded by stable, responsive relationships.”
  • By age three, children in families that are below the federal poverty line are two-thirds more likely to have asthma than those in families at more than 150 percent of the poverty line.
  • Infants and toddlers more commonly live in poverty than do older children.

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2016). Poverty and Child Health in the United States. Pediatrics, 137(4), 1-14. Retrieved from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/137/4/e20160339.abstract

Kaplan, G. (2009). The Poor Pay More – Poverty’s High Cost to Health. University of Michigan. Retrieved from https://www.frbsf.org/community-development/files/poor_pay_more.pdf

  • Fewer than half (48%) of poor children are ready for school at age 5, compared to 75% of children from families with moderate and high income, a 27 percentage point gap.
  • 52% of poor children fail the school readiness evaluation. This is an analysis of math skills (26% failure rate), reading skills (30% failure rate), learning-related behaviors (23% failure rate), externalizing behaviors (20% failure rate), and physical health (4% failure rate).
  • In a study conducted by Brookings Institute, 23% of 4 million children enrolled in preschool programs resulted in an 8.9% increase for being school ready.

Isaacs, J. B. (2012). Starting School at a Disadvantage: The School Readiness of Poor Children. Brookings. Center on Children and Families. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/0319_school_disadvantage_isaacs.pdf

  • More then 17 million children in America face hunger every day.
  • Children facing hunger are more likely to repeat a grade, experience development impairments in areas like language and motor skills,  and have more social and behavioral problems.
  • One study found 43.5 percent of low-income students did not meet any of the required subject area assessments.


Feeding America. (n.d.). Children struggling with hunger come from families who are struggling, too. Retrieved from Feeding America: https://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/child-hunger-facts

Jensen, E. (2009). Teaching with Poverty In Mind. ASCD.

Katsnelson A. (2015). News Feature: The neuroscience of poverty. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112(51), 15530–15532. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1522683112

Lacour, M., & Tissington, L. D. (2011). The effects of poverty on academic achievement. Educational Research and Reviews, 6(7), 522-527. Retrieved from https://academicjournals.org/article/article1379765941_Lacour%20and%20Tissington.pdf

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