Children living in poverty have few of the resources and supports that many of us take for granted. Research has regularly demonstrated that youth living in poverty tend to have poorer educational outcomes than their wealthier counterparts. Why might this be? The below infographic, published by TVO as part of their Why Poverty? series, talks about the relationship between education and poverty in Canada.
Poverty is not equally distributed across all ethnicities and communities. In Canada, social, historical, and cultural factors play an important role in the distribution of wealth. An astounding one in six Ontario children live in poverty. Aboriginal children also face an increased risk of living in poverty. Discrimination against Aboriginal peoples continues to have detrimental effects amidst the intergenerational impact of a history of colonization in Canada. The increased risk that these groups face can be partially explained by a lack of equal access and availability of education and employment opportunities. This highlights the need for specialized programs designed around the hardships faced by families belonging to the specific groups mentioned in the infographic.
One of the main contributors to child poverty in Canada is a lack of affordable housing options. Many families are forced to choose between having a place to stay and being able to put food on the table. Poor nutrition can have a devastating impact on the physical and mental development of a child. Indirectly, this pathway demonstrates that some youth are forced to pay for the high cost of housing. Their payment manifests itself in the form of poor health outcomes, which directly impact their ability to be as successful as their peers in school. The infographic states that among families who use food banks, 77% of their income goes to paying rent.
Household income also has a very strong positive correlation with academic achievement. The infographic states that students in families who earn less than $30,000/year score up to 30% lower on provincial-wide testing than kids living in families that have a combined income of $100,000 per year. Half of all Ontario high school dropouts come from families that make less than $30,000 per year. When the same individuals want to get back on track with their education, they are more likely to face barriers than individuals who have adequate financial support.
The sooner we begin to invest in the lives of children living in poverty, the better. In Canada, where a lack of affordable housing is one of the primary contributors to poverty, the construction and allocation of more affordable housing units can have a direct impact on educational outcomes for poor families. Without programs and supports that target the discrepancy in educational outcomes for children living in poverty versus children belonging to wealthier families, the cycle of poverty will continue into adulthood for many youth.