The Vocabulary Gap

You’ve probably heard many figures thrown around about the number of words a child from a low income community knows entering kindergarten compared to a child from an affluent community. Here are the facts…

Fact #1 – When children from families with low incomes were 3 years old, they knew 600 fewer words than children the same age from families with upper incomes. By grade 2, the gap widens to about 4,000 words (Biemiller & Slonim, 2001).

Fact #2 – Children of relatively affluent, well-educated parents often arrive at school with a working vocabulary of 5,000 or so words, while low-income kids often enter school knowing only 2,500, and that gap tends to widen over the years unless schools make special efforts to close it.

From Hart, T., & Risley, B. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children. Baltimore, MD: Brookes


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