Five Stereotypes About Poor Families and Education

Living in poverty is not directly linked to views on education. The stereotypes hold views that can be found in any level of economic strata. An attitude toward education is not determined by economic status, nor does it change as people move up or down in the socioeconomic sector. The following stereotypes about the poor and their view of education are just that, stereotypes and do not truly represent people in poverty.

Poor parents do not want to be bothered with their child’s education and learning.

On the contrary, parents in these situations want to support their children. Some barriers block parents from assisting their children and come in different forms. There are language barriers that stop some parents in poverty from supporting their children at home. Another barrier includes the level of education the parent has may be far below the education the child is receiving. However, one of the biggest obstacles is access to school and its resources. While the child can attend school, parents are not always able to physically be present in school due to their work schedule limitations. Low-income families would like to be more involved; however, there are limiting factors.

Poor children have limited vocabulary because of their parents.

When something does not work, the blame is placed somewhere. Unfortunately, in this case, poor parents are blamed for their child’s vocabulary skills. Much of this bias is based on limited research and comes from research that tests only a small population of low-income families. Additionally, when these studies are done, there seems to be a disagreement about what facet of vocabulary is being studied. Is the focus on the quality of the words, or is the focus on how many words the child knows? No matter what the focus is, effort should be on improving these issues rather than blaming.

Poor students are lazy because their parents are lazy.

This stigma is associated with poor communities in regards to education. The truth is that the work ethic in low-income families is similar to other socioeconomic groups. Wealth is not an indicator of work ethic. Many low-income families work very hard because they see the value in education as a means for social mobility. Low-income families look to string together as many jobs as they can to make their monthly payments. Getting a better job is not a solution because the opportunity may not be there for a number of reasons. While jobs are being created in the United States, many of them are low-wage or pay just enough to remain above the poverty line.

Poor children have “bad parents.”

This fallacy could not be farther from the truth. Many, if not most, put their children’s well-being before their own. To an outsider, it may seem like the parents are never home and are always leaving their children alone. However, the issue continues to access. Many of these parents work multiple jobs to make rent, pay any outstanding bills, and put food on the table. To no fault of the parents, there may be limited access to extracurricular activities or tutoring for any number of reasons.

Parents of any socioeconomic level want the best for their children. The wealthy classes do not care more about their children, and poor parents do not care any less about their children as compared to other families. There are many success stories where struggling parents did everything they could to push their children through school or to become a professional athlete even if it meant the parent went hungry or slept on the floor instead of in a bed.

Poor students are more likely to abuse substances, just like their parents.

After many different studies and thorough research, this stereotype has been debunked. Poor students and parents are less likely to abuse substances. The studies were also conducted internationally, and the findings were the same. Addiction is progressively worse with increasing income — parents and children alike. The difference between social classes and substance abuse is the availability of help for those plagued with the disease. Low-income families cannot afford substance abuse counseling or rehabilitation, whereas wealthier families have more access to these services because they have more expendable income.

Low-income families are just like every other family. The major difference is access to money. Access to money can afford things such as after-school tutoring, designer clothing, or sports camps. Just because a family lives in poverty, it does not mean the parents are any less of parents. They still take care of their children, are still responsible for their children attending school, and support their children’s dreams. Poor parents are no different from wealthier parents.

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