Kids growing up in poverty show the effects of being poor as early as age 5 — especially those who are Black, a new study suggests.
The research adds to mounting evidence that children of Black parents who are also poor face greater health inequities than whites.
“Our findings underscore the pronounced racialized disparities for young children,” said lead author Dr. Neal Halfon, director of the Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities at the University of California, Los Angeles.
For the study, teachers administered a standardized test to measure physical, social, emotional and language development of kindergarteners in 98 school districts across the United States. More than 185,000 kids took the test from 2010 to 2017.
Analyzing the data, the researchers found that 30% of the poorest children were vulnerable in one or more areas of health development, compared with 17% of children from wealthier areas.
These differences in vulnerability varied among from different ethnic and racial groups. Black children were at the highest risk, followed by Hispanic children. Asian children were at the lowest risk.
The difference between Black children and white children was most striking at the higher socioeconomic levels and tended to narrow for kids from lower-income areas.
The disparities can have a profound effect on kids’ long-term development and lead to higher rates diabetes, heart disease, drug use, mental health disorders and dementia, the researchers said.
“Many other studies have highlighted patterns of income and racial inequality in health and educational outcomes. What this study shows is that these patterns of inequality are clearly evident and measurable before kids start school,” Halfon said in a university news release.
The findings were published in the October issue of the journal Health Affairs.
For more on child development, see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
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