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Relationship Between Poverty and Special Education Placement

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    The US Census Bureau sets an income threshold (Enwefa, Enwefa, & Jennings, 2006), if the income a family or individual brings in does not meet that threshold that individual or family is seen as being in poverty (Engle & Black, 2008). As many people know living below that threshold and being in poverty comes with many added struggles besides the obvious struggle, lack of income. Along with poverty comes chronic stress for the family as well as children (Engle & Black, 2008), health risks, health care that is seen as being inadequate (Enwefa, Enwefa, & Jennings, 2006).

    This paper will look at how poverty affects children and his or her functioning in school. As well as a look at other possible factors, such as the educational system, that could contribute to an influx of students being served through special education. Children living in poverty experience a different environment compared to their fellow peers who are in a higher socioeconomic class. The environment around them can often be unsafe (Thompson, 2012) due to drug activity, gang violence, unsafe or unsanitary living conditions; as well as experiencing an inadequate or unbalanced diet (Thompson, 2012). These environmental conditions are noted to having an impact on a child resulting in lower cognitive abilities, lower academic performance, and an increase in behavior problems (Engle & Black, 2008) (Morgan, Farkas, Hillemeier, & Maczuga, 2012), all of which are standards a teacher uses to refer students for special education. When parents and children deal with these types of environments, the parents are often struggling with the issues of drugs and violence, either around them or personally, which leads to the parent being absent .


    1. Maryland does not see a link between poverty and special education. Retrieved November 9, 2013, from Special Ed Post: Ladd, H. (2012).
    2. Education and poverty: Confronting the evidence. Journal of Polcy Analysis and Management, 31(2), 203-227. Morgan, P. L., Farkas, G., Hillemeier, M., & Maczuga, S. (2012, December).
    3. Are minority children disproportionately represented in early intervention and early childhood special education? Educational Researcher, 41(9), 339-351. Thompson, V. (2012).
    4. Relationship between poverty & special education placement. Retrieved November 9, 2013, from Global Post:

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