Saturday, October 03, 2015

Can cash grants to low income families help the cognitive development of disadvantaged children?

Vox media has run some op-eds encouraging helping poor people directly by giving them money and housing, rather than by manipulating their lives.
Now Kimberly G. Noble has an opinion piece on p. A17 of the Saturday Washington Post ,  where she describes a study where neurological assessments of children are made and correlated to cash assistance levels to their low income mothers.  There is one report already on Nature.
This is important in a personal way, because volunteers often find it is very difficult to communicate with low-income adults who probably didn’t learn the cognitive skills necessary to function well in our kind of society.  So whatever people’s good intentions, their actions often amount to “preaching to the choir”, and interacting with people who process the world the same way – which low income people (and sometimes mentally ill) often do not.  This is of profound moral importance, because people reach adulthood without ability to exercise "personal responsibility" was we normally expect it in out personal interactions with others. 

The idea is that kids will grow up with greater cognitive skills and learn to deal with the world better than their parents.
There is mention of a book “Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much” by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir, website  (Times Books). 
Along these lines, I’ll give a link on the “brains of high achievers” tweeted by Jack Andraka. 

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