Socioeconomic status (SES) is one of the most widely studied constructs in the social sciences. Several ways of measuring SES have been proposed, but most include some quantification of family income, parental education, and occupational status. Research shows that SES is associated with a wide variety of health, cognitive, and socioemotional outcomes in children, with effects beginning prior to birth and continuing into adulthood. A variety of mechanisms linking SES to child well-being have been proposed, with most involving differences in access to material and social resources. For children, SES impacts well-being at multiple levels.
One possible relationship between child development and SES, is that high SES families can afford their children an array of services, goods, and social connections that potentially benefit them. There is a concern that many low SES children lack access to those same resources and experiences, thus putting them at risk for developmental problems (Brooks-Gunn & Duncan 1997).
Another relationship that exists between child development and SES is the availability of good health care. Children of low-SES are more likely to be born prematurely, at low birth weight, with birth defects, or disabilities. (Crooks 1995, Hawley & Disney 1992, US Dep. Health & Human services 2000). Early health problems often originate from poor prenatal care, maternal substance abuse, poor nutrition during pregnancy, and maternal lifestyles that increase the likelihood of infections (e.g. smoking, drug use) (US Dep. Health & Human Services 2000).
Low SES is associated with an increased likelihood of high blood lead levels, iron deficiencies, and sensory impairment (Starfield 1989, Wilson 1993). These outcomes likely reflect an array of conditions associated with low SES, including inadequate nutrition, exposure to tobacco smoke, failure to get recommended immunizations, and inadequate access to health care... [continues]
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