Portrait of a Learner 4-8

Systems Change
Portrait of a Learner 4-8 > Factors > Socioeconomic Status

Socioeconomic Status

Factor Connections

Hover to see how factors connect to Socioeconomic Status. Then click connected factors to explore strategies related to multiple factors.

How Socioeconomic Status connects to...

Socioeconomic Status (SES) refers to a combination of factors, including education and income of a family, as compared to other families. A family's Socioeconomic Status can influence students' Home Learning Environment, the Safety of the neighborhood they live in, and even basic aspects of everyday life like Sleep quality. Children from socioeconomically privileged homes can have significant advantages in their early learning environment, as well as increased physical and socioemotional wellness. Together, these factors can contribute to higher academic achievement and well-being down the line. Importantly, however, providing appropriate supports and resources can help create an equal foundation, improving learning and well-being for all students..

Main Ideas

Many children in the United States live in families with incomes that are classified as below the federal poverty threshold, or in low-income families that have difficulty covering basic expenses such as housing and food. A lack of financial resources can lead to:

  • Difficulty affording safe and stable housing (housing insecurity)
  • Difficulty obtaining sufficient amounts of nutritious food (food insecurity)
  • Difficulty affording medical care
  • Difficulty purchasing educational materials
  • Difficulty spending time engaged with children, vs. at work
  • Increased family stress, which can affect how families engage with their children

Children are most likely to thrive when they receive adequate nutrition and medical care, when they feel safe and stable in their home, neighborhood, and community, when the possibility of Adverse Experiences is minimized, and when they have access to a rich Home Learning Environment and sufficient parental engagement. Although all families typically strive to provide a positive environment for their children, a lack of financial resources can make this more difficult.

The trauma of economic hardship and lack of resources at home and in the community can have long-term effects on academic achievement. However, these effects can be mitigated through private programming or state/federal benefits. In addition, appropriate Social Supports serve as a critical buffer for children, mitigating stress associated with poverty. Schools have a unique opportunity to help level the field: for example, by providing students free lunch (ensuring they are fueled for learning), free Vision screenings (identifying students who may need vision aids), and engaging in outreach to learn how to better support community members.

It is important to note that Socioeconomic Status is not static: families can gain and lose financial resources which may result in changes to their housing, physical, and emotional well being. For instance children may show improved development after moving into better resourced neighborhoods. Conversely they may show difficulties after moving to under-resourced neighborhoods. To offer all students the resources and support they need, it is important for educators to stay aware and recognize if and when a family's circumstances change.

View Measures and References