Poverty is Not Just an Indicator: The Relationship Between Income, Poverty, and Child Well-Being

Acad Pediatr. 2016 Apr;16(3 Suppl):S23-9. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2015.12.010.


In this article, we review the evidence on the effects of poverty and low income on children's development and well-being. We argue that poverty is an important indicator of societal and child well-being, but that poverty is more than just an indicator. Poverty and low income are causally related to worse child development outcomes, particularly cognitive developmental and educational outcomes. Mechanisms through which poverty affects these outcomes include material hardship, family stress, parental and cognitive inputs, and the developmental context to which children are exposed. The timing, duration, and community context of poverty also appear to matter for children's outcomes-with early experiences of poverty, longer durations of poverty, and higher concentrations of poverty in the community leading to worse child outcomes.

Keywords: child development; income; poverty.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Child Welfare*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition*
  • Educational Status*
  • Family
  • Food Supply*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Income*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Parents
  • Poverty*
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Student Dropouts
  • Time Factors
  • United States