Literacy is critical for numerous developmental outcomes and wellbeing among children. Low literacy skills in childhood can also negatively affect individuals in adulthood. Using data from nearly 300,000 kindergarten students in Virginia (2014-2017), this study finds that children in households that participate in more than one social assistance program (such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs, and Free or Reduced-Price Lunch) have lower literacy skills when they enter kindergarten than children whose households participate in fewer or no social programs.

Document Type

Research Brief


Child Health, Literacy, Food Insecurity, Social Welfare Policy, Center for Aging and Policy Studies


Educational Sociology | Education Policy | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social Welfare






Financial support was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service (cooperative agreement #58-4000-8-0036R). We acknowledge the services and support of the Virginia Department of Social Services and Department of Education. We also thank Zoé Tkaczyk, Alexandra Punch, and Shannon Monnat for editorial assistance on this brief.


U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service

Funding ID

cooperative agreement #58-4000-8-0036R

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.