Low-Income Education: Consequences and Impact


Today, there is a global problem with the quality of low-income education. The differences between the latter and high-income education deserve public attention. Relying on quantitative research and using online academic databases, this paper reviews the causes of low-income education, its consequences, and impact on young people and their educational advancement. The following is a description of the key participants interested in solving the challenge. The paper argues that addressing the low-income education issue requires the cooperation of the community, the state and local communities, the strong involvement of the general public, and the active raising of self-awareness about this problem.


Poverty is a severe issue that affects all levels of life and may negatively influence people’s present and long-term goals. Therefore, unless this critical situation is addressed, it is unlikely that future generations will have a bright future. This study is concentrated mainly on modern America, but since this problem is common in almost all countries across the world regardless of their economic strength, other states, namely Canada, are mentioned as well. Statistics show that “students from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds or low-income families are 2.4 times more likely to drop out of high school than students in middle SES families, and 10 times more likely to drop out than higher SES students” (Miller). These numbers prove that the issue deserves immediate attention, careful consideration, and widespread social mobilization.

Low-income education is studied by several sociological disciplines, namely, social stratification and education. This study relies on qualitative and quantitative research, some of which have emerged recently, and others have already become classics in the study of the working class. Data provided in the paper is taken from credible nonprofit sources, which ensures its correctness. However, in some of the sources, the years in which the data was collected are not specified, which is a significant limitation. Overall, this paper argues that unification of the state and broad public and developing an approach incorporating fundamental changes and quick interventions are vital to solving the low-income education issue.

Literature Review

In “Learning to Labor,” Willis explores how educational systems are linked to culture and class to produce a social order (3-290). Willis makes a remarkable attempt to explain why the working class’s reproduction incorporated in the capital endures from the sociopsychological perspective. Such a point of view enables Willis to explore various cultural development aspects in boys of the school-going age in English industrial city. From his observations, Willis deduces that the English culture considered the working-class subordinate to capitalist laws (34). However, his methodology remains the most explicate part of the study since he spent three years monitoring twelve schoolboys through their last two years of learning and first year in employment (Willis 14-26). In the last year of the observation, the author worked together with the twelve study participants in a workshop. In the first part of his presentation, Willis demonstrates the ethnographical characteristics, habits, and cultural influences of the subjects towards school (99-131). In the second part of the book, Willis represents the analytical reconstruction of cultural dynamics, reinforcement, and determinations experienced by the counter-school culture. Willis illustrates the counter-school culture as the particular cultural elements in the ethnographic environment where the boys acted (119-120). The validity of the investigations is expressed through the extensive use of quotation marks on his interviews of counter-school culture (Willis 171-176). He concludes by illustrating the omnipresence of social hierarchies in lived experience.

In “Does Money Matter?” Burtless indicates that public education is of significant concern across the U.S., exacerbated by the publication of the report, A Nation at Risk (489). The researcher engages in a systematic approach to determine the relationship between student achievement and resources at school (Burtless 489). The author examines why Americans are not a literate society despite being in a well-schooled era as projected by John Gatto, the 1991 New York Teacher of the Year Award. Such rhetoric highlights the failure of the U.S. public education system to deliver its promises (Burtless 489). The future citizens were promised world-class learning to equip them with productive functioning in the global economy. However, educational reformers from both political sides seem to be deeply engaged in a rhetorical conflict to enhance U.S. pre-college education (Burtless 488). The reforms should be maimed to make American students perform better than their European, Japanese, and Korean peers under global comparisons. Even though academic factors like national standards and assessments are valuable tools for improving public education, Burtless indicates that nonacademic elements, namely socioeconomic conditions, play a significant role (488). In such regard, failing to solve social and economic influences makes it practically impossible for public education. Although money matters, its utilization, especially in public education, matters the most.

In “The Legitimation of Inequality in American Education,” Conforti explores the social acceptance of inequality in the American education system (225-238). He indicates its distinctive structure that acts as an embodiment and source of the existing class boundaries in the American population. Conforti identifies different features of the American education system (228). For example, the relatively free movement between institutions, early selection circumvention, absence of sharp institutional segmentation, high enrolments, openness to new study fields, and opportunities for educational mobility (Conforti 227). Arguably, the public community college is an example of the educational patterns that continuously reinforce the American idea of talent being rewarded (Conforti 227). However, the perceived lack of class in the U.S. population is a product of the open and democratic educational system. Although Conforti indicates that the U.S. ranks poorly in income equality, the country creates an extraordinary opportunity of keeping the American dream for individual progress by investing resources in higher education (233). Such continued concern over inequality of opportunities reflects on the lack of equality in American society.

In “Income Inequality, Race, and Place,” Hipp examines how crime rates in the U.S. are influenced by neighborhood inequality and heterogeneity (665-695). The study acknowledges that race and class play a vital role in neighborhood crime. The researcher utilizes a large sample of census tracts of 2000 in 19 cities. Substantial evidence is established on the significance of racial heterogeneity on all crimes committed by strangers due to income inequality. The study uses census tracts since they often utilize proxy for neighborhoods though they do not have all the information regarding the crime. From the routine activities’ theory, Hipps suggests that inequality increases the presence of motivated offenders and potential targets, leading to crime (669). Therefore, inequality is associated with relatively higher rates of violent crime. However, revealing evidence indicates that the impacts of poverty on robbery and murder are insignificant when comparing them with levels of income inequality. Overall, the study indicates that the racial and class characteristics in the neighborhood are essential in understanding the levels of crime rates (Hipp 693). In such consideration, Hipp suggests that a general policy to reduce the income inequalities or economic differences among neighbors is vital in minimizing crime rates in the neighborhood.


Low-income education is a serious matter, considering its vast and long-lasting effects on students, including their characteristics, social interactions, and further educational aspirations. According to statistics, “less than 30% of students in the bottom quarter of incomes enroll in a 4 year school. Among that group – less than 50% graduate” (“11 Facts About Education and Poverty in America”). Research shows that low-income-related issues strongly and negatively affect a child’s physical and psychological well-being and overall readiness to thrive in the educational environment (Ferguson et al. 701). Furthermore, the Canadian case study showed that the students coming from lower-income families did not perform as great as their counterparts from higher-income families on vocabulary, symbol usage, numbers, and concentration levels (Ferguson et al. 702). According to Ferguson et al., “schools with the largest proportion of children with low school readiness were from neighborhoods of high social risk, including poverty,” representing social inequality as the starting point of the problem (702).

A similar unfortunate picture is present across borders, and those facts that the lower-income students are of lower performance and a vast majority of dropouts come from poverty-prone families have been universalized. A research carried out by the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) examined the literacy skills performance of fourth-graders in thirty-five counties and again proved the relative significance of “socio-economic gradient” regarding educational outcomes (Ferguson et al. 702). Social inequality and its widespread nature make it challenging to alter the existing reality.

Due to the complexity of the matter, it is challenging to identify specific historical facts and social processes that have led to material inequality in society. The truth is that the situation has a significant impact on young people’s personal and career advancement, and the educational inequality becomes evident from the first day of school. Psychological unpreparedness, inadequate equipment at school, and many other factors lead to unpleasant consequences, including the involvement of young people in the criminal world, which was discussed by Hipp (669). Therefore, with the study of the underlying problems, it is time for the public and the state to pay due attention to the serious problems at hand that urgently need to be addressed.

In their research, Kuo et al. study the inequality of public schools across the U.S. and indicate that “sixth-graders in the richest school districts are four grade levels ahead of children in the poorest districts” (2). The same study examines 395 public elementary schools in Chicago, the third-largest American school district, identifying 87% of third-grade students as qualified for free lunch and 26% to have underperformed on English language tests (Kuo et al. 4). One can say with certainty that only Chicago does not have similar problems and that such inequality between schools stifles the potential of many students elsewhere, logically raising a question: what should be done?

There are different programs or law initiatives in various countries today that address the issue under consideration. Still, none provide a solid foundation for reducing the educational quality gap between rich and poor schools. Considering the complex nature of social inequality, waiting for the root problem to be resolved appears pointless. Hence, it is necessary first to take small and simple yet efficient steps.

The school environment and its setting are of great importance, and this fact once again showed this in research carried out by Kuo et al. (3). On the last report, school greenness has significant and positive effects on students’ cognitive development, enhances memory and concentration, and leads to better academic performance (Kuo et al. 3). After examining various low-income schools across multiple locations, including Washington D.C., Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Massachusetts, researchers found that greenness resulted in improved math performance and also had a smaller but still positive impact on reading performance (Kuo et al. 9).

Consequently, greening the school areas can positively influence the academic quality of low-income education by conforming to the psychology of students in a school environment. Schools in low-income neighborhoods often directly reflect the socioeconomic situation. Yet, while it might be impossible to acquire the latest technology, society should use all budgetary resources (like planting trees) to transform low-income schools into a healthier work environment.

It is also vital to make early and later stage interventions like the utilization of prevention programs in areas like health to decrease risk factors and enhance students’ social and cognitive capabilities. “The Pathways to Education” project emerged through cooperation between local communities, a school board, and a health center in Canada and included voluntary tutoring, scholarship fund, and career mentorship (“Evaluation of Pathways to Education, Final Report”). This community project had an immense effect, with the highest academic “at-risk” percentage falling by 50% to 60% and graduation rate improving by 33 % (Ferguson et al. 704). This example clearly demonstrates the power of social mobilization and the potential of the latter to bring about positive change, including in the field of education.

Given the above, the state work in low-income education must be more active, and the government should aspire to raise the educational standards as much as possible. At the same time, society should use the existing resources to the maximum and employ available low-cost tools for reaching the destination. The latter should share the responsibility for providing quality education as the societal role in significant public changes is always vital. The information and data provided by researchers and authors mentioned in this paper prove the case for a change in policy.


Given the examples discussed in the paper, it is clear that not only the state but also society has a significant role to play in improving low-income education. As was mentioned above, the “Pathways to Education” project was entirely initiated and carried out by the local community and turned out as a great success (“Evaluation of Pathways to Education, Final Report”). Accordingly, this example should be taken into account as it proves that strong social mobilization does have consequences, which is something to be employed in tackling the low-income education issue.

The process of increasing public activism to solve the problem in question does not mean removing this obligation from the state and joining their efforts by the government and the public. Implementing the last-mentioned idea through the creation of various projects and programs will, consequently, make a positive contribution to students’ psychological and physical well-being affected by low-income education. It is possible to predict that in the future, such changes will make a decisive contribution over time to improving students’ academic achievement, their pursuit of future career goals, and to become successful citizens, regardless of the socioeconomic background of the latter. Given the simple idea that the state’s future depends on the younger generations, it is crucial to find ways to realize the ideas under consideration and mobilize appropriate individuals and resources to solve the problem.

Achieving the desired result requires public activism to demand more attention and funding for low-income education from the government, cooperation between local communities, and various health, youth, education-focused NGOs, and foundations. The reform movement is the type of social movement needed to address the situation. The low-income education topic must be at the forefront of the interests of the state and society, as it defines the creation of a strong core of citizens necessary for the future well-being of all.

One of the world’s leading child psychiatrists, James P. Comer, who studied students from low-income areas, identified six intertwined “pathways,” including physical, cognitive, psychological, language, social, and ethical (Lynch). According to the author, they determine one’s academic advancement and overall development (Lynch). Comer believed that the local school staff, teachers, and parents had a very powerful influence on students’ success. Therefore, with the involvement of the local community and the state, it is necessary to mobilize those in direct contact with students, bearing in mind their tremendous power and influence in this area.

In addressing the issue of low-income education, there may be some opposition from the public or government to the allocation of the funds needed to address this issue. Additionally, high-income people may not be interested in the situation and refuse to contribute to its solution. With this in mind, it is necessary to raise public awareness of the seriousness of the problem. The significant differences between low and high-income education and their respective opportunities should be highlighted in detail.

From the current perspective, it is difficult to make any predictions about what the gap between low- and high-income education will be in the future. There are many organizations, programs, or institutions that try to solve this problem independently. However, it is unlikely that their efforts alone are sufficient to make significant progress. Advancement requires a more robust and stricter approach for which public and state support is vital.

After intensive research on the quality of low-income education, many unanswered questions arose. In addition to the ways suggested in the paper, what other methods can society employ to tackle this global problem? Where should significant changes start: from school, community, or state initiative? How should teachers be motivated to invest their best to improve the quality of low-income education when their income is minimal? The future holds the answers to these questions.

In addition to raising public awareness, the involvement of professional academic researchers is precious. Based on the information provided in the paper, it is easy to see the great role that students’ psychological and physical health plays in academic progress. Therefore, it would be helpful to work with psychiatrists, the healthcare sector, psychologists, and low-income school staff and teachers to discover new, easy-to-implement, and less funds-related ways to increase student motivation and development. The unification and attention of so many specialists around the students will not only have a positive impact on the problem-solving process but also show them their great importance and the sincere concern of the community for their future.


In conclusion, to address the issue of low-income education, it is necessary to unite the state, community, and schools and develop a comprehensive approach that incorporates both financial factors for fundamental change and quick and effective interventions. The joint efforts of any stakeholder or association interested in raising public motivation and awareness of the issue are critical. Bringing together experts, parents, teachers, and youth organizations allows their common interest and concern to provide a solid foundation for solving the low-income education puzzle.


Burtless, Gary T. “Does Money Matter?” Policy Studies Journal, vol. 25, no. 3, 1997, p. 489

Conforti, Joseph M. “The Legitimation of Inequality in American Education.” The Urban Review, vol. 24, no. 4, 1992, pp. 227-238.

“11 Facts About Education and Poverty in America.” n.d. Web.

“Evaluation of Pathways to Education, Final Report.” Government of Canada, 2019. Web.

Ferguson, H. Bruce, et al. “The Impact of Poverty on Educational Outcomes for Children.” Pediatrics & Child Health, vol.12, no. 8, 2007, pp.701-706.

Hipp, John R. “Income Inequality, Race, and Place: Does the Distribution of Race and Class Within Neighborhoods Affect Crime Rates?” Criminology, vol. 45, no. 3, 2007, pp. 665-697.

Kuo, Ming, et al. “Might School Performance Grow on Trees? Examining the Link Between “Greenness” and Academic Achievement in Urban, High-Poverty Schools.” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 9, 2018, p. 1669.

Lynch, Matthew. “How to Help Low-Income Students Succeed.” The Edvocate, 2017. Web.

Miller, Celia. “High School Dropout Rate.” EducationData.org, 2019. Web.

Willis, Paul E. Learning to Labor. How Working-Class Kids Get Working-Class Jobs. Gower Publishing, 1977.

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ChalkyPapers. "Low-Income Education: Consequences and Impact." October 13, 2023. https://chalkypapers.com/low-income-education-consequences-and-impact/.