Types of Poverty: A Summary for Teachers

types of povertyPoverty can hit anyone at any time. While some instances of poverty are created by situations, others are trapped in poverty because of the generation before them. Poverty of this nature can just continue the vicious cycle and bring the entire family down into a deep hole. This can affect children in school, and as a teacher, it’s important to know the types of poverty and the effects poverty can have on students. Study the main causes of low academic achievement for Hispanic students.

Types of Poverty

There are six main types of poverty according to Eric Jensen’s study from Teaching with Poverty in Mind (2009). He lists these six types as situational, generational, absolute, relative, urban, and rural. Here’s a brief description of each type of poverty:

  • Situational: This particular type of poverty is usually temporary as it involves a crisis or loss occurring. Events connected with situational poverty include environmental disasters, divorce, or severe health problems. A good example of situational poverty caused by an environmental disaster would be the destruction of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Many people were homeless, lost their jobs, and had nothing to their name. The fall of the economy can also be considered an event that could cause situational poverty. Learn economics to have a better understanding of how the economy affects everyone.
  • Generational: This type of poverty involves the birth of two generations into poverty. Because they were born into this situation, they usually don’t have the tools to help get themselves out of it.
  • Absolute: This particular type of poverty is actually rare in the United States. People in absolute poverty don’t even have basic necessities like a roof over their head, food, and water. Their only focus is on surviving each day as it comes.
  • Relative: This type of poverty is known as relative because it is relative to the average standard of living in that person’s society. What is considered high income in one country could be considered middle or low income in another. If a family’s income isn’t enough to meet the average standard of living, they are considered to be in relative poverty.
  • Urban: This particular type of poverty is only for metropolitan areas with populations over 50,000. Overcrowding, violence, noise, and poor community help programs make it even more difficult for people suffering of this type of poverty to get out of it.
  • Rural: Like urban poverty above, rural poverty occurs only in specific area types. These areas are nonmetropolitan with populations below 50,000. The low population limits services available for people struggling financially, and a lack of job opportunities only compounds the problem.

Poverty’s Effect on a Person

With the amount of stress and anxiety that poverty places on a person, it shouldn’t be too shocking that poverty can cause a great multitude of issues. This can include challenges with emotions or in social interactions, and it can also cause health problems and safety concerns. Often, a person suffering from poverty will be struck with one bad thing that will only compound as that bad event causes another event and that other bad event causes yet another bad event.

A good example of this would be credit cards. Families living from paycheck to paycheck might turn to credit cards to help them through tough financial spots. Unfortunately, with high interest rates and fees involved, a small tough spot like running out of toilet paper soon turns into a massive bill as other needs are put before paying that credit card.

Many families in poverty have both parents working multiple jobs, and this can leave the children to fend for themselves. They end up finding ways to survive in their world instead of spending time learning about it. These children will often have high tardiness and absences, poor grades, and lack the focus and concentration to pay attention in class.

Because both parents are working, children growing up in low income areas tend to feel unloved and lonely. This low self-esteem and longing for attention and love will have them turning to all the wrong places. Many of these children perform poorly in school, have behavioral problems (bad attention is better than no attention), drop out of school, and begin abusing drugs and alcohol far earlier than their higher-income peers.

A lack of transportation or health care can lead to frequent tardiness or absences for children in low income areas. Poor grades can be attributed to the parents’ attitudes toward school too. Many of the parents that make up low income areas had to drop out of school early themselves to find a job and help their parents support the younger children. Because of this, they might discourage their children to do well in school and instead suggest that the child get a job to help support the family.

How Schools Can Help

In the past, teachers have not been very understanding of children from low income areas. They simply see them as an issue in their class that needs to be addressed. A child will recognize this in their teacher and give up on academics. When raised in poverty, these children are looking for someone that will care and be dependable. If a teacher shows dislike or talks to them as if they are less important than their peers, this can teach them to resent school.

Teachers need to be retrained regarding their attitude toward “problem students.” Joe Smith might crack jokes during class and not have turned in a single assignment, but that doesn’t mean he’s a hopeless case. It may very well be that he’s trying to get the attention from his peers or even bad attention from the teacher that he doesn’t get at home. Each child should be approached with empathy and understanding, no matter how badly they might act. Teach a child that it’s up to them to either stay in the low income they grew up in or reach for higher standards with information offered in this online course.

Again, children should be approached with empathy, not pity. Approaching a child from a low income home with pity instead of empathy can lead to that teacher subconsciously lowering their standards. While Jack Bennet from a high income family is expected to learn his multiplication tables from zero to twelve by third grade, a teacher approaching a child with pity will simply nod understandingly if Joe Smith only reaches from zero to eight by the third grade. Each child should be expected to achieve the same, no matter their family life or attitude about school. Consider positive psychology to reach children from low income households and show them that they can succeed too.

Final Words

If you plan to teach in low economic areas, be prepared for the bad, the worse, and the ugly. There are very few good days in poor schools, and you are going to have to steel yourself or end up giving up on teaching. As a teacher, you can make a difference in that student’s life. By reaching out to your students with empathy, understanding, and a respectful nature, you can break a vicious generational poverty cycle Be the teacher to make a difference; don’t be the teacher counting the years before retirement.