Poverty in America
What two “rich” countries have the highest rates of child poverty? Greece? Ireland? Would you ever guess that the United States has the 2nd highest rate of child poverty amongst rich nations? Right now, there are 16 million kids living below the federal poverty line, or 22% of all US children. 
I just read an interesting interactive article on CNN that inspired this post and connects to my series of posts on poverty within education. This article was about children living in poverty in Silicon Valley - ironic since Silicon Valley is home to some of the country’s wealthiest companies. John D. Sutter investigates the rates of child poverty in the country, highlighted by videos of homeless “towns” and children living on less than $2 a day. This is a reality check that you need to see. Child poverty absolutely is an issue in America.
Everyone is talking about “the gap” in America - not the preppy clothing store - but the growing gap between the rich and the poor.
“While average income before taxes for the wealthiest 10 percent of U.S. families rose 10 percent from 2010 to 2013, inflation-adjusted incomes for the poorest 40 percent of families actually declined, according to the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances.” 
Unfortunately, the gap between the rich and the poor only furthers an even more important gap, one that all educators, especially ones in literacy and early-childhood placements, need to understand. The word gap.
The difference in oral language abilities is only compounded as kids get older. Oral language ability is one predictor of reading ability. If students reading skills are delayed, another cycle starts: the Matthew effect.
The Matthew effect basically says that students who are good readers become better readers (because they read and comprehend more), and students who are poor readers continue to struggle and widen the gap (because they choose not to read, and then fall behind when they need to “read to learn”). While not all students living in poverty will go down this road, there is a high percentage that they will struggle in this area, which often leads to higher drop-out rates and lower wages. Disheartening, I know.
But how do we break this cycle?
Breaking the Cycle
Education is one of the best ways to break the cycle of poverty.
John D. Sutter, in his article on CNN, argues that one way to break the cycle of poverty is to invest in early education and child care for all. I strongly believe in improving our early education access in this country. Check out this page to see how you can help the movement.
But what about the kids who have already entered the cycle? How do we educate them?
Check out my additional blog posts in the poverty series:
2. Poverty in Education: The Brain
3. Poverty in Education: 6 Strategies to Help Students from Poverty Succeed
1. Measuring Child Poverty: New League Tables of Child Poverty in the World’s Rich Countries. Firenze: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, 2012. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.
2. “Child Poverty.” National Center for Children in Poverty. n.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.
3. "US Income Gap Widened During Economic Recovery: Federal Reserve." International Business Times. n.p., 4 Sept. 2014. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.
4. Hart, B. & Risley, T.R. “The Early Catastrophe:The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3” (2003, spring). American Educator, pp.4-9.
Please join me in the conversation on poverty below. How does poverty affect your students and/or your school?