Poverty and Education

How Does Poverty Affect Education?

Education is commonly cited as a key to overcoming poverty, but what about the converse? How does poverty affect education? The answer is multi-faceted.

Consider the following:

  • According to UNICEF, “children who grow up impoverished often lack the food, sanitation, shelter, health care and education they need to survive and thrive.”1
  • It’s estimated 258 million children do not attend school. Most, if not all, of the reasons stem from poverty.2
  • Children who grow up in poverty “often experience life as a series of volatile situations over which neither they nor their caregivers have any control. Thus, they fail to develop a conception of themselves as free individuals capable of making choices and acting on them to shape their lives, instead reacting to crises that are only magnified by their poor ability to plan ahead or reflect.”3
  • Approximately 736 million people worldwide live below the poverty line, earning $1.90 a day or less.4 The focus for these families is often just to survive. Even if schooling is tuition-free, they can’t afford to buy the necessary school supplies for their children to succeed.
  • When a family is entrenched in a cycle of generational poverty, often the parents are uneducated and may not recognize the importance of education for their children. If children are in school, uneducated parents are unable to help them with their studies.
  • Many impoverished children work instead of going to school so they can contribute to the family’s meager income. There are 160 million children worldwide in child labor, which prevents them from gaining an education.5
  • For girls, poverty is the main factor that determines whether she can access education. A family’s financial hardships can lead to child marriage, which reduces the family’s economic burden but limits a girl’s education and opportunities.6
  • In low- and middle-income countries, approximately 53 percent of children cannot read and understand a simple story by the end of primary school. The level is as high as 80 percent in poor countries.7
  • Children from the poorest households are nearly five times more likely to be out of primary school.8
  • The stresses of poverty can lead to poor cognitive development and impaired learning ability.9
  • Malnutrition, a byproduct of poverty, leads to frequent illness, which keeps children out of school. Hunger also makes it extremely difficult for children to concentrate or retain information.10

These are just some of the ways poverty affects education. Organizations like GFA World help children overcome these obstacles.

Through GFA World’s Child Sponsorship Program, impoverished children freely receive basic necessities such as nutritious food, health care, school supplies and education assistance. This alleviates the financial burden of families and enables children to obtain an education.

1 “Child poverty.” UNICEF. https://www.unicef.org/social-policy/child-poverty. Accessed August 19, 2021.
2 Rodriguez, Leah. “Understanding How Poverty is the Main Barrier to Education.” Global Citizen. https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/poverty-education-satistics-facts/. February 6, 2020.
3 Birdsong, Kristina. “10 Facts About How Poverty Impacts Education.” The Science of Learning Blog. https://www.scilearn.com/10-facts-about-how-poverty-impacts-education/. January 26, 2016.
4 “Poverty.” The World Bank. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/poverty/overview. Accessed August 5, 2021.
5 “Child labour rises to 160 million – first increase in two decades.” International Labour Organization. https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_800090/lang–en/index.htm. June 10, 2021.
6 Rodriguez, Leah. “Understanding How Poverty is the Main Barrier to Education.” Global Citizen. https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/poverty-education-satistics-facts/. February 6, 2020.
7 “What is learning poverty?” The World Bank. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/education/brief/what-is-learning-poverty. April 28, 2021.
8 “Education: Every child has the right to learn.” UNICEF. https://www.unicef.org/education. Accessed August 18, 2021.
9 Bradley, Olivia. “What is the Relationship Between Poverty and Learning?” The Borgen Project. https://borgenproject.org/what-is-the-relationship-between-poverty-and-learning/. Accessed August 18, 2021.
10 Walthouse, Emily. “Effects of Hunger on Education.” The Borgen Project. https://borgenproject.org/effects-of-hunger-on-education/. Accessed August 19, 2021.