In the Read

Addressing poverty and improving outcomes for children

During Anti-Poverty Week, In the Read will examine some recent research around the relationship between poverty and child outcomes.

The AIFS research paper Low Income and Poverty Dynamics – Implications for child outcomes finds a strong negative association between poverty and a range of indicators for children’s developmental outcomes, including cognitive (particularly in very early years, which has flow-on effects for academic achievement into later childhood – the report demonstrated that both episodic and persistent poverty experienced at 0-1 substantially negatively impacted Year 3 NAPLAN scores, amounting to 23 to 25 per cent of one year of schooling for reading and numeracy), social (the psychological adjustment of children was affected, with those experiencing poverty showing clinically significant problems at a substantially higher rate), and health (pre-existing poorer health outcomes were the strongest predictor of ongoing poor health). The authors argue the costs to children’s development and wellbeing are also likely to be carried into adult life.

The Child Social Exclusion, Poverty and Disadvantage in Australia report widens the lens to examine disadvantage beyond poverty based on income. The report finds that children tend to experience disadvantage across multiple fronts – for example 35% of children living in areas with high risk of social exclusion also experience housing stress, and community risk of child social exclusion tends to persist over time. The key drivers of improvement in child social exclusion are ‘above-average’ improvement in socio-economic family wellbeing, educational attainment, and reduced exposure to housing stress. The AIFS Contexts of Disadvantage paper similarly examines the association between family, neighbourhood and school level disadvantage and children’s cognitive and social outcomes in a broader context and finds that all levels of a child’s community (ie. family, neighbourhood and school) need to cohesively support and improve child outcomes.

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