Socioeconomic Status

A family's socioeconomic status is based on family income, parental education level, parental occupation, and social status in the community (such as contacts within the community, group associations, and the community's perception of the family), note Demarest, Reisner, Anderson, Humphrey, Farquhar, and Stein (1993). Families with high socioeconomic status often have more success in preparing their young children for school because they typically have access to a wide range of resources to promote and support young children's development. They are able to provide their young children with high-quality child care, books, and toys to encourage children in various learning activities at home. Also, they have easy access to information regarding their children's health, as well as social, emotional, and cognitive development. In addition, families with high socioeconomic status often seek out information to help them better prepare their young children for school.

Crnic and Lamberty (1994) discuss the impact of socioeconomic status on children's readiness for school:

"The segregating nature of social class, ethnicity, and race may well reduce the variety of enriching experiences thought to be prerequisite for creating readiness to learn among children. Social class, ethnicity, and race entail a set of 'contextual givens' that dictate neighborhood, housing, and access to resources that affect enrichment or deprivation as well as the acquisition of specific value systems."

Ramey and Ramey (1994) describe the relationship of family socioeconomic status to children's readiness for school:

"Across all socioeconomic groups, parents face major challenges when it comes to providing optimal care and education for their children. For families in poverty, these challenges can be formidable. Sometimes, when basic necessities are lacking, parents must place top priority on housing, food, clothing, and health care. Educational toys, games, and books may appear to be luxuries, and parents may not have the time, energy, or knowledge to find innovative and less-expensive ways to foster young children's development.

Even in families with above-average incomes, parents often lack the time and energy to invest fully in their children's preparation for school, and they sometimes face a limited array of options for high-quality child care--both before their children start school and during the early school years. Kindergarten teachers throughout the country report that children are increasingly arriving at school inadequately prepared." (p. 195)

Families with low socioeconomic status often lack the financial, social, and educational supports that characterize families with high socioeconomic status. Poor families also may have inadequate or limited access to community resources that promote and support children's development and school readiness. Parents may have inadequate skills for such activities as reading to and with their children, and they may lack information about childhood immunizations and nutrition. Zill, Collins, West, and Hausken (1995) state that "low maternal education and minority-language status are most consistently associated with fewer signs of emerging literacy and a greater number of difficulties in preschoolers." Having inadequate resources and limited access to available resources can negatively affect families' decisions regarding their young children's development and learning. As a result, children from families with low socioeconomic status are at greater risk of entering kindergarten unprepared than their peers from families with median or high socioeconomic status.

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