This article examines distinct trajectories of childhood exposure to poverty and provides estimates of their effect on high school graduation. The analysis incorporates three key insights from the life course and human capital formation literatures: (1) the temporal dimensions of exposure to poverty, that is, timing, duration, stability, and sequencing, are confounded with one another; (2) age-varying exposure to poverty not only affects, but also is affected by, other factors that vary with age; and (3) the effect of poverty trajectories is heterogeneous across racial and ethnic groups. Results from the Children of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth show that any extended exposures to poverty substantially lower children's odds of graduating from high school. Persistent, early, and middle-to-late childhood exposures to poverty reduce the odds of high school graduation by 77 percent, 55 percent, and 58 percent, respectively, compared to no childhood exposure to poverty. The findings thus suggest that the impact of poverty trajectories is insensitive to observed age-varying confounders. These impacts are more pronounced for white children than for black and Hispanic children.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Sciences(all)