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The Social Consequences of Economic Inequality for Canadian Children: A Review of the Canadian Literature.

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Presentation on theme: "The Social Consequences of Economic Inequality for Canadian Children: A Review of the Canadian Literature."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Social Consequences of Economic Inequality for Canadian Children: A Review of the Canadian Literature

2 2 Review purpose & methodology Purpose: – to uncover the educational, health, social justice and employment consequences to children of socio-economic inequality. Methodology: – 12 databases searched for literature published between 1996-2006. – 828 articles initially captured. – 34 articles with following characteristics retained: Canadian population; Quantitative methodology; Measurable outcomes; Socio-economic inequality as ‘independent variable.’

3 3 Academic educational consequences (based on 12 studies) Higher family-level SES is correlated with better academic outcomes across ages. Children in ‘persistently poor’ households are at greater risk of failure and poor school performance. – Children in welfare dependent families are at particular risk (compared to working poor). Community SES appears to have modest effects over and above family level SES.

4 4 Behavioural educational consequences (based on 8 studies) Family and neighbourhood SES are negatively correlated with anti-social behaviours (i.e. more wealth, fewer problem behaviours) and weakly positively correlated with pro-social behaviours. Low SES may be a stronger predictor of problem behaviour among younger children than older children. Except among the most disadvantaged, resistance to school does not appear to increase at lower income levels.

5 5 Emotional and physical health consequences (based on 6 and 8 studies) Low SES is correlated with heightened risk of emotional difficulties in children of various ages. – (e.g. anxiety/ depression; destructive behaviour; aggression) Compared to high SES children, low SES children: – Smoke more frequently; exercise less frequently; manifest STDs more frequently; are hospitalized as infants more frequently; spend more days sick; self-assess health more negatively. Compared to high SES mothers, low SES mothers: – Follow infant feeding recommendations less frequently; rate their infant’s health as ‘less than excellent’ more frequently.

6 6 Employment consequences (based on 2 studies) Social class does not appear to be associated with employment aspirations. – Most youth aspire to ‘middle class’ jobs. Sibling incomes are more tightly correlated than neighbour’s incomes, suggesting the importance of families in eventual labour market attainments.

7 7 Social justice consequences (based on 5 studies) Children in chronic poverty more likely to be emotionally, physically or sexually victimized by age 17. Degree and type of risk appears mediated by geography, gender and race. – Low SES immigrants face bigger acculturation problems than high SES immigrants. – Poor, male Aboriginals are especially vulnerable. – Different risks to males and females are exacerbated by low SES.

8 8 Moderating variables Effects of low SES on academic, emotional health and employment outcomes, appear strongly mediated by family characteristics. – Good parenting, family functioning, family cohesiveness, maternal mental health, parent control. – In many cases deleterious SES effects are reduced to statistical insignificance when family variables are introduced. Although academic mean scores decrease at lower levels of SES, many individual scores do not. Family functioning variables do not appear to ameliorate the deleterious physical health outcomes. Active low SES children appear more resilient to poor emotional outcomes.

9 9 Policy implications related to Ontario’s poverty reduction strategy (PRS) Policy interventions may often be best aimed at improving family functioning or family environments (PRS core principle: ‘kids live in families’). – Important Ontario PRS initiatives: ‘Parenting and Family Literacy Centres’ (PFLC) and ‘Parents Reaching Out Grants’ (PROG).

10 10 Policy implications related to Ontario’s poverty reduction strategy Access to (and success in) education is important to both parents and children. – Long-term key to breaking poverty cycle for children. – Short-term key to better health choices and engagement with child’s education (which predicts child’s success) for parents. – Important Ontario PRS initiatives: Ontario Early Years Centres, Parenting and Family Literacy Centres (PFLC); Parents Reaching Out Grants (PROG); full day learning; Learning Opportunities grant

11 11 Policy implications related to Ontario’s poverty reduction strategy Different populations are likely at different degrees and kinds of risk due to low SES; different policies might need to target different groups (PRS core principle: ‘diversity’). – Aboriginals, immigrants, welfare dependent (vs. working poor) and younger children may be at most heightened risks due to low SES. – Important Ontario PRS initiatives; Akwe:go; priority given to programs in communities with Aboriginal populations; newcomer settlement program; increase of Ontario Child Benefit.

12 12 Policy implications related to Ontario’s poverty reduction strategy Physical health outcomes can be improved for low SES children. – Opportunities to participate in safe, healthy physical activities may be disproportionately unavailable to low SES children. – Physical health outcomes appeared most easily improved by direct income transfers. – Physical health appeared positively correlated to mental health. – Important Ontario PRS initiatives: Ontario Child Benefit; After School Program; Student Nutrition Program.

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