Poverty & Brain Science
"When it comes to combating poverty in today's economy, we need to think differently and we need to work differently." - EMPath President & CEO Elisabeth Babcock
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.
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The world has changed. The work has changed. They've both gotten a lot harder. It's projected that in the near future 75% of all jobs will require education beyond high school. This changes the world of working with low-income families. How do you build programs for that? Emerging brain science has something to tell us.