Getting out of poverty has always been tough, but in the past generation it’s become even tougher. Costs are rising: from housing to health care to child care. At the same time, we’re seeing shrinking low-end wages and rising education requirements for family-sustaining jobs. Today’s pathway out of poverty is a journey that fewer than one in four people can ever expect to complete.

Being trapped at the bottom has serious consequences. Science tells us that living in poverty significantly raises the likelihood of incarceration, homelessness, becoming a single parent, failing to complete high school, and even dying younger. Science also tells us that poverty–and its associated stress–affects brain development. Poverty impacts how we analyze problems and set goals, and, therefore, how well we can navigate the many challenges involved with getting ahead. In other words, science has proven that poverty and stress compromise the very same skills and behavior most necessary for people to lift themselves out of it.

Fortunately, we can take this emerging science and use it to design new ways to help people achieve upward economic mobility. We can transform human services delivery. We can move away from strategies for which the highest goal is stability, and perhaps modest gains; and instead design interventions that create pathways to the middle class and beyond.

That’s where EMPath’s Mobility Mentoring and The Bridge to Self-Sufficiency come in.

How Toxic Stress Affects Us

For those who've experienced toxic stress, just getting through the day can feel tough, let alone being the best parents or caregivers you can be. In this video, learn more about what toxic stress can feel like, along with practical steps you can take to feel better and build resilience for yourself and your children.