Families in an Era of Increasing Inequality

Volume 5 of the series National Symposium on Family Issues pp 201-212


Struggling to Stay Afloat: Dynamic Models of Poverty-related Adversity and Child Outcomes

  • C. Cybele RaverAffiliated withOffice of the Provost, New York University Email author 
  • , Amanda L. RoyAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • , Emily PresslerAffiliated withDepartment of Applied Psychology, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University

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This chapter outlines several promising ways to capture the respective roles of poverty (as defined by falling below a federally defined threshold based on families’ total household income and family size), and co-occurring risks (such as job loss, residential, and household instability ) in research on child outcomes in the context of adversity. As high-quality longitudinal data has become increasingly available and the methods for analyzing data are more sophisticated, our approaches to the measurement of poverty-related risk have become more complex. Exposure to poverty-related risk can be understood as dynamic, with consequences for children likely to vary as a function of timing, type, and context (e.g., households, schools, and neighborhoods). The impact of poverty-related adversity may also depend on both adults’ and children’s subjective experiences of material hardship and level of disadvantage relative to neighbors or peers. The authors draw upon a preschool experiment and subsequent long-term longitudinal follow-up of over 600 low-income children (the Chicago School Readiness Project or CSRP) to illustrate these approaches.