Understanding the Needs of Children in Poverty to Improve Academic Achievement: A Literature Review

Christy Michele Lothrop


Poverty affects one in five children in the U.S., where 50% of public schools identify as mid-high or high-poverty schools. Decades of research confirms a significant and constant economic academic achievement gap. This literature review sought to determine how poverty impacts children’s development and ways educators can improve educational outcomes for students in poverty. Researchers illustrate how poverty impacts children environmentally and neurologically, leading to brain changes associated with language, memory, socioemotional, and executive functioning skills. Researchers offer a multitude of ways that educators can improve educational outcomes for students in poverty including: improving school climate and teacher-student relationships, implementing social skills and executive functioning curricula, increasing parental involvement, teacher instructional quality, and district instructional expenditures.