Socioeconomic status and child development

Annu Rev Psychol. 2002:53:371-99. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.53.100901.135233.


Socioeconomic status (SES) is one of the most widely studied constructs in the social sciences. Several ways of measuring SES have been proposed, but most include some quantification of family income, parental education, and occupational status. Research shows that SES is associated with a wide array of health, cognitive, and socioemotional outcomes in children, with effects beginning prior to birth and continuing into adulthood. A variety of mechanisms linking SES to child well-being have been proposed, with most involving differences in access to material and social resources or reactions to stress-inducing conditions by both the children themselves and their parents. For children, SES impacts well-being at multiple levels, including both family and neighborhood. Its effects are moderated by children's own characteristics, family characteristics, and external support systems.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology
  • Child Development*
  • Cognition
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Psychology, Child
  • Social Adjustment
  • Social Class
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology