How Poverty Influences the Learning Environment

How Poverty Influences the Learning Environment

Academic success is essential because it is linked to positive outcomes. People with strong educational backgrounds are more likely to secure employment as well as decent salaries. Academic achievement also increases the chances of having health insurance, and hence, reduced dependence on social assistance and the likelihood of engaging in criminal activity. However, the issue of poverty has plagued the learning environment and education system around the world. Even rich countries, such as Canada and the United States, have not been spared. Poverty has been shown to induce psychiatric disorders, chronic physical and health problems, including social and academic functioning (Ferguson, Bovaird, & Mueller, 2007). Academic life is one of the key areas that poverty influences. It is imperative to explore the effects of poverty on education to find a solution to the problem and ensure that students get the most out of their education.  Quantitative and qualitative sources are some of the excellent tools that can be used to examine the effects of poverty on the learning environment.

Literature Review

The connection between poverty and educational performance has been widely documented. Statistics show that poverty negatively impacts a child’s readiness for school through health, home life, and neighborhoods (Ferguson et al., 2007). The poverty-related factors that impact a child’s school performance are incidence, depth, duration, and poverty timing. Additionally, the challenges that children encounter at home, including parental inconsistency, exposure to many caregivers, and lack of supervision and role models affect a child’s performance (Ferguson et al., 2007). Statistic reveals that wealthy students perform better academically compared to their less privileged counterparts. Edwards (2012) cites the thematic reviews by Pedro (2003) and Jensen (2009) that looked into the issue of poverty and the learning environment. Edwards also notes the works of Rubenstein and Dickert-Conlin (2007) that examine how the income level influences accessibility to higher education. The authorreveals that students from low-income backgrounds struggle to access higher education (Edwards, 2012). Canadian scholars have also reported positive results concerning the relationship between poverty and the learning environment. Ferguson et al. (2007) mention a report by Thomas (2007) that establishes that children from low income backgrounds score poorly in regards to knowledge of numbers, vocabulary and communication, and concentration. Another study in Canada indicated that schools that scored low on institutional readiness have children from lower socioeconomic neighborhoods.

In their qualitative analysis of 2007, Ferguson et al. examined how poverty influences Canadian children. Their study focused on education and extensively analyzed the findings of the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY). NLSCY has consistently demonstrated that socioeconomic factors greatly affect school achievement (Ferguson et al., 2007). These findings also incorporate studies from the United States with the same results. Living in extreme poverty affects cognitive development and academic performance. Besides the American studies, international ones have also presented similar findings concerning the effect of socioeconomic status on academic outcomes. The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), for instance, examined data from 43 countries to determine performance patterns in math, science, and reading. The results revealed that socioeconomic status played an important role in educational attainment from elementary school to high school (Ferguson et al., 2007). International bodies, including the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and Institute of Research and Public Policy, have conducted similar researches. Another study by the Human Resource Development Canada reveals that students from low-income backgrounds had a higher probability of dropping out of school. It is backed by a qualitative study by Ferguson et al. (2007), which indicates that 50% of learners who drop out of school in Ontario are from homes with incomes below $30,000.

Edwards (2012) conducted a study to examine the effects of poverty on the achievement gap. The study is based on the stratification theory, which distinguishes individuals by their social status and party. In the context of the study, stratification implies that socioeconomic status influences educational achievement (Edwards, 2012). The theory was helpful in developing a comparison between the academic performances of scholars from affluent backgrounds and those from the poor ones. The research utilizesa quantitative approach with structured questions. Data was collected from books, online media along with scholarly journals, and the proposed variables were age, sex, and gender. The study, which involveswhites,blacks, and Hispanics, reveals that many African-American students live in poverty and go to low standards schools that affects their educational achievement.


According to statistics, poverty has a negative impact on the learning environment since it affects elements, such as physical health, cognitive functioning, social skills, and access to quality education. The problem is experienced worldwide at all levels of schools, including those in rich countries. Since educational success is pivotal in excelling in future, there is need to fix the situation to enable students from low-income families to excel academically. School systems should be reformed to allow students from poor backgrounds to learn at the same level as their rich counterparts. Prevention programs can also contribute to solving health challenges for children from poor communities. Lastly, schools can incorporate activities, for instance, sports and arts, which are essential to improving learners’ readiness.



Edwards, S. (2012, March 29-31). The effects of poverty on achievement gap: A quantitative analysis using stratification theory. Proceedings of the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, 1352-57. Retrieved from

Ferguson, H.B., Bovaird, S., & Mueller, M.P. (2007, Oct). The impact of poverty on educational outcomes for children. PaediatrChild Health, 12(8), 701-06. Retrieved from