How poverty affects school achievement

A child who is brought up in a bad neighbourhood may be less likely to achieve academic success than his or her peers raised in more affluent areas. This is the suggestion of new research published in the American Sociological Review, which found the longer a young person lives in such an environment, the greater the impact this can have.

The investigators - from the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin-Madison - characterised disadvantaged regions as those with high levels of unemployment, poverty and welfare receipt.

It was determined that residing in such an estate has a more detrimental effect on a youngster than has been established in previous studies, with the experience of such living impacting on cognitive development for years and even generations to come.

Speaking regarding black children in the US, Geoffrey Wodtke, a Sociologist at the University of Michigan - home to 19 schools and colleges - said: "Compared to growing up in affluent neighbourhoods, growing up in neighbourhoods with high levels of poverty and unemployment reduces the chances of high school graduation from 96 per cent to 76 per cent."

Dr Madeleine Ohl, a Chartered Psychologist from the University of West London, commented: "Within the UK the last two decades have seen significant increases in both the recognition and investment in interventions (e.g. Sure Start, widespread parenting programme provision) to counteract the negative effects of deprivation upon children. 

"There unfortunately still remain distinct inequalities between the achievement of children from deprived backgrounds and those who experience a more affluent upbringing.

"A report commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree trust using data derived from the Pupil Level Annual School Census identified that boys outnumbered girls by 20 per cent in terms of low achievement.

"In contrast to the University of Michigan study, Cassen and Kingdon found that white British boys accounted for nearly 50 per cent of poor achievement, although there were issues of low achievement amongst some of the ethnic minority children within the study.

"Whilst great strides forward have been made in implementing national programmes such as Sure Start, parenting help and other initiatives to support children who experience the effects of deprivation there is still an urgent need for policy makers and practitioners to recognise that serious inequalities still exist and effort and investment should be focused on closing these gaps."