Just Sociology

Understanding the Impact of Poverty and Cultural Capital on Education

The concept of education is often misconstrued as a means of leveling the playing field for all, but the reality is that it serves as an amplifying agent for already existing socio-economic disparities. The Cultural and Material Deprivation Theories provide two lenses through which these inequalities can be understood, as they pertain to education.

The former contends that children, from low-income backgrounds, lack the cultural traits and skills necessary for optimal educational outcomes, while the latter emphasizes the importance of physical necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter in educational attainment. It is essential to evaluate the implications of these theories in contemporary society, which is complex, diverse, and continues to struggle with issues of inequality.

Five Ways Cultural Deprivation Disadvantages Children in Education

The Cultural Deprivation Theory posits that children from low-income, often working-class, backgrounds experience a deficit in values, norms, and skills required to succeed in the education system. These deficits manifest in five primary ways.

First, working-class parents tend to exhibit less involvement in their children’s homework and education in general, hindering their academic achievement. Second, the speech code, often prevalent in working-class communities, follows a different pattern from that of the education system, thus failing to equip students with the precise linguistic skills required to excel in academic settings.

Third, working-class communities place an emphasis on ‘immediate gratification,’ rewarding instant satisfaction over long-term goals. Fourth, underclass communities tend to experience a phenomenon of ‘fatalism,’ which is a belief that their actions neither affect nor contribute to societal change.

Fifth, there has been a rise in single-parent families, whereby the child is left in a position to perform several adult roles, that is fruitless and impedes academic progress.

Class Subcultures and Education

The Cultural Deprivation Theory postulates that there exist class subcultures within society, referring to different value systems, norms, and principles in various social classes. Working-class norms and values are often at odds with the middle-class’ deficiency values, which tend to emphasize educations importance.

The concepts of an academic meritocracy are lacking in underclass communities, which hinder social advancement. Such children are dissuaded from striving for excellence since they often have not seen success in their communities.

Consequently, they feel their upward mobility is limited, and it is pointless to strive for ambitious goals.

Value System of Different Classes

As the Cultural Deprivation Theory argues, underclass children’s malaise is due to internalized value systems prevalent in lower-class communities. A self-imposed barrier is created when children adopted value systems counterintuitive to the importance of education.

Rather than viewing education as a vital tool in achieving occupational status and social advancement, it is viewed as unimportant, and the resultant lack of motivation impedes academic progress. Furthermore, low-income parents often lack the ability to support their children in their academic pursuits as they experience financial difficulties.

Immediate and Deferred Gratification

Immediate and deferred gratification is a prevalent theme in the Cultural Deprivation Theory. Working-class subcultures tend to act towards instant gratification, pursuing pleasure at the sacrifice of long-term goals.

Fatalism and present-time orientation lead to collectivism, whereby competition is tempered, and collaborative learning is stifled.

Recent Evidence for Cultural Deprivation Theory

Studies carried out on focus group interviews in Further Education (FE) colleges and universities frequently demonstrate how low income, underprivileged students tend to have a restricted speech code. Such individuals display an inability in articulating their own experiences and ideas, hindering them in attaining high-level academic goals.

Relation of Material Deprivation to Underachievement

Material Deprivation posits that the attainment of basic needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter, is a prerequisite for effective educational performance. However, studies indicate that, besides pupils from low-income backgrounds, various other factors impact academic achievement with material deprivation only explaining twenty percent of the differences in achievement between socio-economic groups.

Other factors, among them ethnic and gender differences, play a considerable role in the academic performance of students.

Marxist Criticism of Cultural Deprivation Theory

Marxists argue that the Cultural Deprivation Theory is flawed — it assigns blame to the working class for their plight in an unequal society. They argue that it is unfair to blame working-class parents for not being able to provide comprehensive support for their children’s education in a system that actively disenfranchises them.

The theory ignores the fact that under such conditions, the working class is not a cause but a victim.

Complex Class Structures

The class structures within contemporary society are multilayered and complex. The traditional classifications of working-class and middle-class are no longer sufficient when evaluating educational outcomes.

Currently, there is a widening gap between the wealthy and impoverished where the latter is experiencing more significant social and economic exclusion. Conclusion:

The Cultural and Material Deprivation Theories provide fundamental insights into the issues surrounding education and societal inequality.

The theories emphasize that the poverty of resources and deficient cultural values of low-income families remain obstacles to academic success. Material Deprivation posits that social inequality plays a more significant role in limiting equal educational opportunities compared to cultural deprivation.

Ultimately, it is incumbent on policymakers to tackle poverty and its effects if equal educational outcomes are to be attained. However, as the class structures in society are complex, no singular solution exists, and more research needs to be undertaken to explore solutions.

Overview of Class Subcultures

Class subcultures refer to the specific values, norms, and beliefs that exist within different social classes. The sociology of education often emphasizes the importance of understanding the ways in which class-based cultural capital impact students’ educational outcomes.

Cultural capital is a sociological concept referring to non-monetary assets such as knowledge, skills, and experiences that can be used to achieve success in various domains. Working-class children are often at a disadvantage as their cultural capital does not align with those of higher social classes, consequently impacting their academic achievement.

Cultural capital is acquired from family and early socialization, whereby education achievement negatively correlates with lower-class backgrounds. The support and resources available to students at home are, therefore, significant determinants of educational achievement.

Wealthier parents have more resources to invest in their children, such as technology, music and art lessons, educational toys, and trips to museums, galleries, and libraries. Such investments add to a child’s cultural capital, thus endowing them with advantages that may not be available to their lower class counterparts.

Working-class families tend to prioritize entertainment personality and utility in their expenditures while middle and upper-class families tend to spend more on academic-related material, bolstering student cognitive development opportunities. Early socialization of key values and norms are critical in reproducing class structures and resultant educational outcomes.

Research has indicated that the effects of the family’s cultural capital on educational achievement are prevalent even before the child begins school. _x000D_


Additional Resources

Haralambos and Holborn’s book, Sociology Themes and Perspectives 8th Edition, provides further insight into the effects of cultural capital on educational achievement. The book emphasizes that cultural capital is a non-monetary asset that is not evenly distributed across social classes.

The resources available to working-class families tend to be limited; this has a negative impact on their children’s educational achievement. The authors further state that children from low-income backgrounds lack the confidence to articulate themselves academically, which impacts their ability to respond to academic demands adequately._x000D_


External posts, contemporary links, summary, and student-written posts on earlhams pages provide additional resources that delve deeper into the matter.

The links provide insights into the importance of parents’ home-based factors, extracurricular activities, and providing rewarding academic challenges to bolster cognitive development. The Student-written posts provide a student perspective, offering insight into the challenges faced in attaining success in academic-related activities.

The earlhams pages help summarize key points and offers further resources for deeper learning. _x000D_


Furthermore, a multi-faceted approach is necessary to deal with cultural deprivation.

Parents, whether working-class, middle-class, or upper-class, must prioritize education as an asset in their child’s life. School systems must recognize and cater to ethnic and racial differences to ensure equitable access to educational resources.

Teachers must develop an appreciation of class cultural values in students, which sometimes clash with the academic curriculum’s values. Cultivating values such as hard work, ambition and innovative thinking in children regardless of social class can improve academic success._x000D_




Closer examination of class subcultures reveals how the differentiating cultural capital composition between social classes is an excellent determinant of academic success in low-income households.

The wealthier classes have a greater endowment of non-monetary assets that can be used to enhance their children’s education. Working-class families are less well-equipped, with fewer resources to invest in academic-related endeavours reducing their children’s non-monetary assets.

Sociologists of education and policymakers alike must understand the significance of cultural capital, and its role has to be continually evaluated in enhancing educational outcomes that contribute to greater social outcomes. In this article, we have explored the Cultural Deprivation Theory, Material Deprivation Theory, and Effects of Cultural Capital on Educational Achievement.

We have examined the ways in which poverty, class subcultures, and cultural capital impact educational outcomes, ultimately shaping social and economic outcomes. The significance of the article is rooted in fostering an understanding of the role of these systems in enhancing educational attainment for all.

The FAQs address common questions readers may have, providing succinct and informative answers to foster a greater understanding of the topics discussed. FAQs:


What is cultural deprivation theory? Cultural deprivation theory posits that low socio-economic status correlates negatively with cultural capital, resulting in a lack of intellectual resources necessary to succeed academically.

2. What is the material deprivation theory, and how does it impact educational outcomes?

Material deprivation theory emphasizes the role poverty plays as a key determinant of educational outcomes; it argues that physical deprivations such as inadequate housing, clothing, and food negatively impact academic achievement. 3.

What is the effect of cultural capital on educational achievement? Cultural capital is a non-monetary asset that can amplify academic success, enabling children to develop skills and knowledge that help them excel academically.

4. How do social class subcultures impact educational achievement?

Values, norms, and beliefs that exist within different social classes shape cultural capital, impacting educational achievement. 5.

How do we tackle inequality in education? Tackling inequality in education requires a concerted effort among policymakers, educators, and parents alike.

Providing equal access to educational resources, promoting engagement in academic activities, and developing a shared sense of responsibility for academic success are all critical steps to achieve equality in education.

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