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 stand a chance of lifting 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.

The stresses of poverty cause a set of challenges.

EMPath President & CEO Elisabeth Babcock Teams Up With The World Bank.

Stress impacts our focus, memory, organizational skills, and future-oriented thinking. For people fighting to escape poverty, it creates a special set of obstacles.

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Chronic Stress Impacts Child Development

Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, an EMPath partner, explains the science behind poverty—and how it can cause chronic stress.

Stress can impact all of us. For people in poverty, the stress can be chronic. For children in poverty, the chronic stress of poverty can carry into adulthood.