Adapted from Hart & Risley, 1995

Less language exposure is associated with less word production. You can see this in the graph. We updated the graph from the previous page to include three levels of SES. First look at the green line. You will see that the average 24-month-old from a low-SES family knows just over 200 words. Now look at the red line. The average 24-month-old from a high-SES family knows over 400 words. By 2 years of age, children from high-SES families know twice as many words as children from low-SES families.

There is a relationship between SES and the number of words children hear. But it is not SES that causes these differences. Rather, other factors may explain why children from low-SES families hear fewer words. For instance, high-quality childcare may be too expensive for low-SES families. These parents are also likely to experience more stress and have less free time after work than high-SES parents.

Early interactions and exposure to language are related to the children’s success at learning language. All caregivers, regardless of SES, can support children’s language learning. They can do this by talking to and interacting with their children throughout the day.