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Programs For Children Living In Poverty

This review suggests a number of policies and programs that should be helpful to children living in poverty. For example, research identifying pathways for the influences of poverty reinforces the need for programs designed to provide stimulating learning environments (e.g., Head Start), to strengthen poor neighborhoods, to improve the quality of child care available to low-income families, and to provide mental health services for parents. Robert St. Pierre and Jean Layzer, researchers with Abt Associates, have summarized the successes and failures of various programs designed to improve the "life chances of children in poverty." They conclude that intensive early childhood programs, with follow-up as children enter school, can have significant positive effects. In contrast, research has failed to demonstrate that parenting education yields positive outcomes for children. St. Pierre and Layzer suggested that most comprehensive two-generation programs (focusing on both parents and children) have failed because of their erroneous focus on coordinating existing services instead of adding intensive programs needed by vulnerable children. These researchers concluded that "without the societal will to make direct and dramatic changes in the economic circumstances of low-income families, policymakers will have to continue to rely on programs such as the ones reviewed in this article as a second-best solution to helping low-income families." (St. Pierre and Layzer 1998, p. 19). Overall, the research on children and poverty indicates that the most successful programs for producing positive child outcomes will be those that reduce family poverty.


Brooks-Gunn, Jeanne, Greg Duncan, and Nancy Maritato. "Poor Families, Poor Outcomes: The Well-Being of Children and Youth." In Greg Duncan and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn eds., Consequences of Growing Up Poor. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1997.

Duncan, Greg, and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn. "Family Poverty, Welfare Reform, and Child Development." Child Development 71 (2000):188-196.

Hernandez, Daniel. "Poverty Trends." In Greg Duncan and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn eds., Consequences of Growing Up Poor. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1997.

Klebanov, Pamela, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Cecilia McCarton, and Marie McCormick. "The Contribution of Neighborhood and Family Income to Developmental Test Scores over the First Three Years of Life." Child Development 69 (1998):1420-1436.

Luthar, Suniya. Poverty and Children's Adjustment. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1999.

Sherman, Arloc. Poverty Matters: The Cost of Child Poverty in America. Washington, DC: Children's Defense Fund, 1997.

St. Pierre, Robert G., and Jean I. Layzer. "Improving the Life Chances of Children in Poverty: Assumptions and What We Have Learned." Social Policy Report: Society for Research in Child Development 12, no. 4 (1998):1-27.

Linda J. Anooshian

Additional topics

Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 6Poverty - Causes Of Poverty, Consequences Of Poverty, Programs For Children Living In Poverty