Getting out of poverty has always been tough, but it has become even harder over the past generation. The increasing costs of housing, health care, and child care, coupled with shrinking low end wages and rising education requirements for family-sustaining jobs, have made today’s pathway out of poverty a journey that fewer than one in four people can ever expect to complete.

And 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 affect how our brains develop, including how we analyze problems and achieve 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 brain-based skills and behaviors most necessary for people to stand a chance of lifting themselves out of it.