Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Impacts of Poverty on Quality of Life in Families of Children with Disabilities

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Impacts of Poverty on Quality of Life in Families of Children with Disabilities

Article excerpt

If you have no money, it's very difficult to be--to do--to be together, to do

fun things, to be at peace, to come home to a haven.... Because if you have no money, the bills not paid, you not gonna rest when you get home. You might have a good family, you know, a good husband, whatever, whatever. But, you don't have money, all that can go down the drain, so.... Money provides a way of release. You can go on a vacation, maybe, once a year, whereas if you don't have the money, you won't be able to do that. You can-you can pay your bills. Whereas if you don't have money, you won't be able to do that. And when you can't do those things, you have this feeling of insecurity which floods over into other problems, emotionally. Anger, bitterness, and then it jumps off on the other family members and you got chaos. (Beach Center, 1999)

   I'm trying to fight so much and do so much to get a house, so they can have
   their own room, have a larger place to live in, because a lot of apartment
   we in now, everybody is right on top of one another. And then, I stay upset
   because they are always fighting, and I know if I get a larger place they
   won't be doing this. And what I'm afraid of is they gonna constantly do
   this as they grow older. (Beach Center, 1999)

These quotations from respondents in focus groups of families of children with disabilities reveal some of the life demands associated with poverty and show how the quality of life of families can be affected because of poverty. They also put a human face on research data. As of 1997, more than a fifth of American children lived in families with cash incomes below the poverty level (Dalaker & Naifeh, 1998). Significantly, recent demographic studies have found a growing relationship between poverty and risk for disability (Fujiura & Yamaki, 2000; Kaye, LaPlante, Carlson, & Wenger, 1996; Seelman & Sweeney, 1995). For example, the longitudinal estimates done by Fujiura and Yamaki (2000) indicated a significant increase in the rate of childhood disability over the past 14 years among constituencies defined by poverty and single-parent headed families. The impact of home and family factors (e.g., income, parent education, language background) were found in 900 school districts in Texas to contribute 49% to student achievement, whereas teacher qualifications contributed 43% and class size 8% (Ferguson, 1991). It is becoming increasingly evident that poverty has a tremendous impact on the educational results of all children, including those with disabilities. Thus, poverty is not a secondary topic in the field of special education services and disability policy anymore. Achieving IDEA's intended results of independence, productivity, equal opportunity, and inclusion is significantly complicated by complex factors associated with poverty.



A family, and every individual in it, is considered poor when the family's total income is less than the income threshold set by the U.S. Census Bureau (Dalaker, 1999). The term income is based on income before taxes and excludes capital gains and noncash benefits such as public housing, Medicaid, and food stamps (average monthly benefits per person from food stamps were $72.20 in 1999). Table 1 shows the Census Bureau poverty thresholds for 1999, according to family size and composition (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000b). Poverty thresholds are based on expenditures judged necessary for minimal acceptable amounts of food, housing, and other essentials (Duncan & Rogers, 1991) and are updated annually for inflation. Poverty thresholds do not vary geographically. In 1989, the U.S. poverty threshold for families of four was $12,700; in 1999 it was $17,184.


In 1998, the poverty rate was 12.7%; about 34.5 million Americans lived in poverty and a total of 15.1% of all American families with children were living in poverty. …

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