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Early Childhood Poverty: A Statistical Profile (March 2002)
Younghwan Song and Hsien-Hen Lu

Compelling research over the last several years shows that the first years of life are more important to a child's emotional and intellectual development than had been thought. This research increases the urgency of addressing one of the most important risk factors to impeding a young child's development: poverty. Unfortunately, in the United States, almost one in five young children –18 percent in 2000—live in poverty during those crucial early years. The 2.1 million children under age three who are poor face a greater likelihood of impaired development because of their increased exposure to a number of factors associated with poverty. These risk factors include:
  • inadequate nutrition
  • environmental toxins
  • diminished interaction due to maternal depression
  • trauma and abuse
  • lower quality child care
  • parental substance abuse

(Adapted from information in Early Childhood Poverty:  A Statistical Profile, March 2002, pg. 1, a publication of the National Center for Children in Poverty, http://www.nccp.org, and used with the permission of the National Center for Children in Poverty)


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Free To Grow is a national program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with direction and technical assistance provided by the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University.