A Novel Effort to See How Poverty Affects Young Brains

The purpose of this study is to collect neurological data from children between 1 year of age and 3 years of age, and researchers succeeded in obtaining the first set of data for approximately two-thirds of children before the epidemic. Because the home visit is still unstable, they extended the study to 4 years of age and a second set of brain data will be collected next year instead of this year.

The epidemic, as well as the two incentive payments most Americans received last year, undoubtedly affected different participating families differently, as would this year’s incentive checks and new monthly payments. But due to the study being randomized, the researchers nevertheless hoped to be able to assess the impact of the cash gift, Drs. Noble said.

The child’s first years are seen, through a randomized trial, as an audacious attempt to prove a causal link between poverty reduction and brain development. “This is certainly one of the first, if not the first studies of direct policy implications in this developing field,” said Martha Farah, cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Center for Neuroscience and Society who studies poverty and brains.

However, Professor Farah believes that social scientists and policy controllers often miss out on the relevance of brain data. “Are the neurological actions we bring to bear, or are people just icy with images of the brain and affective-affective words of neuroscience? This is an important question.

Skepticism abounds. Nobel Prize-awarded economist James Heckman at the University of Chicago, who studies inequality and social mobility, said he did not even see that a policy would come out of it, except to say, there is an impression. To have a better economic life. “

“And it’s still a question of what the actual mechanism is” through which giving cash to parents helps the children’s brains, he said, targeting such mechanisms directly could be both cheaper and more effective. is.

Samuel Hammond, director of poverty and welfare policy at the Nisken Center, who worked on a child allowance proposal by Senator Mitt Romney, agrees that the source of any observed cognitive benefit is difficult to track. “I have trouble removing interventions that really help the most,” he said. For example, policy experts debate whether some child care programs directly benefit a child’s mind or free her caregiver to get a job and increase family income, he said.

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