Liv Ames for EdSource

Less gray matter in key areas of the brain could account for as much as 20 percent of the achievement gap between children living in poverty and those who are not, according to a new study.

The results of brain scans of 389 typically developing children, ages 4 to 22, showed that children whose family income was below the federal poverty line were the most adversely affected. They had less gray matter, which processes information in the brain. Brains of “near-poor” children in families whose income was 1.5 times the poverty threshold also showed significant structural differences from the brains of children in higher-income families, though those differences were not as extreme. In 2015, a family of four with an income below $24,250 is considered living in poverty.

The study did not determine why living in poverty impedes the natural maturation of the brain, said lead author Nicole L. Hair, a Robert Wood Johnson scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Although some research has pointed to caregiver interactions and stress in low-income families as reasons for the achievement gap, Hair said more research needs to be done about which poverty-related factors have the biggest impact on brain development.

“The brain continues to develop and continues to change structurally into our 20’s,” said researcher Nicole L. Hair.  “With intervention, it may be possible to alter this link between poverty and academic achievement.”

The results “don’t imply that low-income children’s ability is predetermined or a permanent disadvantage,” Hair said. “The brain continues to develop and continues to change structurally into our 20’s. With intervention, it may be possible to alter this link between poverty and academic achievement.”

Hair noted that there were no significant adverse effects on children in families whose income was between 1.5 times and two times the poverty threshold. And, in an earlier study by Hair, she found that children’s brains look similar when they are born. “Clear differences begin to emerge once they are 3 or 4,” she said.

Her research reinforces the efforts of California to improve the quality of daycare centers and provide more funding for childcare providers. Some school districts, as part of their efforts to close the achievement gap, have also decided to invest in children starting at birth.

The children and adolescents in the study were screened for a variety of factors that could affect brain development, such as low birth weight, exposure to lead, a risky pregnancy or a family history of psychiatric problems. Children in those categories were not included in the study. In addition, the educational attainment of the families in the study was similar, regardless of their economic situation. The study, Association of Child Poverty, Brain Development, and Academic Achievement, was published on July 20 in JAMA Pediatrics, a publication of the American Medical Association.

The researchers found that poverty affected the structure in three parts of the brain that have an impact on academic achievement:

  • The frontal lobe, which controls attention, inhibition and emotions, and affects complex learning;
  • The temporal lobe, which is important in memory and language comprehension, such as learning the alphabet, identifying words and attaching meaning to words; and
  • The hippocampus, which processes spatial and contextual information and has been tied to long-term memory functioning.

The volumes of gray matter overall were 3 to 4 percentage points below the developmental norm for children whose family’s income was at the poverty line or 1.5 times above. A larger gap of 7 to 10 percentage points was observed for children below the poverty line.

On average, children from low-income households scored 4 to 8 points lower on two standardized tests. The Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI) scores include a verbal IQ that measures word knowledge, verbal reasoning, concept formation, visual information process, abstract reasoning and visual motor coordination. The second test, the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement (WJ-111), included math computation, letter-word identification and the ability to understand written text. For both tests, a composite score between 90 and 110 is considered average.

Using a statistical technique called mediation analysis, the researchers estimate that 15 to 20 percent of the gap in test scores could be explained by the structural differences in the three parts of the brain they examined. Researchers employ mediation analysis to understand what underlies a known relationship — in this case, that children living in poverty have lower test scores.

The researchers — including Jamie L. Hanson from Duke University and Barbara L. Wolfe and Seth D. Pollak from the University of Wisconsin-Madison — conducted the study from November 2001 through August 2007, scanning the children’s brains in most cases three times at about two-year intervals. About 5 percent of the children and adolescents lived in families below the poverty level, and 10 percent were “near-poor.” The participants were recruited from six different parts of the country.

 

 

 


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  1. Don 10 months ago10 months ago

    If the study authors want to recommend policy changes as a result of the study, special education identification would be appr0priate. If students with documented cognitive delays fall behind academically they should be evaluated for an IEP. My own son has ADHD which is a documented cognitive delay of the prefrontal and temporal cortices, similar to this study findings, though the mechanism of delay is likely different. The overall presentation of the two delays may … Read More

    If the study authors want to recommend policy changes as a result of the study, special education identification would be appr0priate. If students with documented cognitive delays fall behind academically they should be evaluated for an IEP. My own son has ADHD which is a documented cognitive delay of the prefrontal and temporal cortices, similar to this study findings, though the mechanism of delay is likely different. The overall presentation of the two delays may be respectively unique, but they both result in developmental cognitive impairment which manifest as learning disorders. Therefore, the authors should but won’t advocate for students who are representative of their study to receive special education services. They won’t because like-minded compensatory education proponents have red-flagged special education identification as racially disproportionate. That’s too bad because children who need the services are now being denied and this study just opened a whole new class of people to denial.

  2. Gary Ravani 10 months ago10 months ago

    Those who ignore the original article are doomed to misinterpret its findings.

  3. TTanin 10 months ago10 months ago

    Would this imply that people in third world countries have less brain material in the areas in question?

    Replies

    • Susan Frey 10 months ago10 months ago

      No, the study does not imply that. The study is limited to the United States and the impact of poverty on children and their families here. The study does not determine which factors are involved. Cultures are different, and the stresses of poverty are different in each society. Also, not all people who live in Third World countries live in poverty. It would be interesting to conduct a similar study in another country to see what the results were.

      • Gary Ravani 10 months ago10 months ago

        Susan:

        Just curious here. Did you actually read the study or just the press release/executive summary?

  4. Parent 10 months ago10 months ago

    Another study of blaming the victims of the California education system.
    Another remedy of throwing in more money and hiring more “teachers” to expand union membership.

    It is really disheartening that the establishment continues to actively block the opening of charter schools in under served areas who are willing to take on the challenge of educating our disadvantaged youth without making excuses.

  5. Paul Muench 10 months ago10 months ago

    Maybe the good news is that grey matter only accounted for 20% of the achievement gap. That leaves 80% to be addressed by other factors. Perhaps given the limited areas of the brains studied there is extra room for grey matter to be an additional factor. But perhaps environmental factors can still play a huge part even if not related to grey matter. Overall this study seems focused enough that it … Read More

    Maybe the good news is that grey matter only accounted for 20% of the achievement gap. That leaves 80% to be addressed by other factors. Perhaps given the limited areas of the brains studied there is extra room for grey matter to be an additional factor. But perhaps environmental factors can still play a huge part even if not related to grey matter. Overall this study seems focused enough that it can advance the science but not give clear insight on policy direction.

    Replies

    • Gary Ravani 10 months ago10 months ago

      Paul: Not really. There is a pretty clear policy prescription contained in the study: Immediately increase dollars and resources to those living in poverty. If poverty accounts for a loss of potential brain matter, and then other losses in potential achievement due to other impacts of poverty, then what could our "excuse" be for carrying the near highest percentage of children living in poverty in the industrialized world? Plainly, there is no viable excuse. It is … Read More

      Paul:

      Not really. There is a pretty clear policy prescription contained in the study: Immediately increase dollars and resources to those living in poverty. If poverty accounts for a loss of potential brain matter, and then other losses in potential achievement due to other impacts of poverty, then what could our “excuse” be for carrying the near highest percentage of children living in poverty in the industrialized world? Plainly, there is no viable excuse. It is pure and simple societal neglect as well as slavery to a cruel political dogma and compounded by efforts to scapegoat teachers and schools who have to work within the framework of the national neglect.

      Again, what possible excuses [sic] can be constructed to try and rationalize the fact that the world’s richest nations has nearly the highest percentages of children suffering brain loss (again, brain loss) due to conditions of poverty?

      And we see consistent efforts, even on this site, to question the viability of reams of research establishing the connections between poverty and low school achievement. Then there are the connections between segregation and low school achievement being accelerated by the growth of charter schools. We are unwilling as a society to anything much, outside of finger pointing and bloviating about “choice,” to do anything about either condition. As economic disparities grow ever more intense in the US, so do the conditions of poverty and segregation grow worse.

      When looking at the situation you can attribute the national acceptance of condemning large parts of our society to the despair of poverty by looking at one political philosophy constantly reinforced by a “sound-machine” of media outlets and think-tanks, aka, propaganda mills, and summed up nicely in a book, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.” The book asserts the adherents of the “philosophy” have become an “insurgent outlier…unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science.”

      Not only are these adherents “unpersuaded,” but they will manipulate facts and text to distract others from “facts, evidence, and science”. It is hard to say if these attempts are premeditated or efforts to delude themselves from reality, or some combination.

      And then we have inane proposals to further cut back on resources to schools because, you know, we just must neglect the kids somewhere, if not in the schools then in their homes and communities. It seems the current “choice” is to do both.

      • Paul Muench 10 months ago10 months ago

        Gary,

        Having read your previous comments in this forum I’m thinking you were not waiting for this research to come to those conclusions. I agree with your use of the word potential about the results of this study. I don’t see any discussion of mechanism in the study which would have offered conclusive evidence. I believe that would have at least forced nay sayers of early education into an awkward position.

        • Gary Ravani 10 months ago10 months ago

          Paul: Checked out the actual study? The results of this study are not world shaking. The "causal" relationship between poverty and various disadvantages have been well documented for years. "Conclusive evidence," or 1:1 correlation, is the fragile pusedo-defence those who are anti-vaxers, climate change deniers, creationists, and the tobacco industry use. And it never gets to the key question: How does the wealthiest of the industrialized nations allow itself with any sense of morality to have nearly … Read More

          Paul:

          Checked out the actual study? The results of this study are not world shaking. The “causal” relationship between poverty and various disadvantages have been well documented for years.

          “Conclusive evidence,” or 1:1 correlation, is the fragile pusedo-defence those who are anti-vaxers, climate change deniers, creationists, and the tobacco industry use.

          And it never gets to the key question: How does the wealthiest of the industrialized nations allow itself with any sense of morality to have nearly the highest child poverty rate in the industrialized world? Just doing the correlation v. causation kabuki is not enough.

          • Don 10 months ago10 months ago

            On the topic of inconclusive proofs don’t forget to include the union’s defense of ineffective teachers.

          • Paul Muench 10 months ago10 months ago

            I could only read what’s not behind the paywall. I wasn’t looking for a correlation coefficient of 1. I was looking for information on the mechanisms by which poverty results in rediced grey matter.

            • Gary Ravani 10 months ago10 months ago

              Paul: As I stated in my initial response to Andrew's "interpretation" (interpretation less several key sentences that is) of the article I noted that if you just reference the title of the article (cut and paste) on a search engine you come up with the PDF. It is at this point you find the authors are not hesitant at all to reference cause and effect relationships between poverty, brain development, and low school (and life) achievement. … Read More

              Paul:

              As I stated in my initial response to Andrew’s “interpretation” (interpretation less several key sentences that is) of the article I noted that if you just reference the title of the article (cut and paste) on a search engine you come up with the PDF.

              It is at this point you find the authors are not hesitant at all to reference cause and effect relationships between poverty, brain development, and low school (and life) achievement. The “conclusion” also frames policy responses, which is ambitious because the US has such a limited scope of policy responses to poverty. That is to say the US is unlike the European countries that have reduced child poverty to around 5% from the US rate of 22%+. Of course, the prevailing philosophy is these US kids should go out and start up a new company, invest wisely in the stock market, and/or generally pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, or lacking boots, pull themselves up by those little yarn thingies that hang from knitted booties.

            • Paul Muench 10 months ago10 months ago

              Gary, Thank you for the pointer. Here is the conclusion for others' reference: "While brain structure and development may not be the only mechanism underlying the income achievement gap, the novel evidence presented in this study seems to suggest that 1 com- ponent linking parental SES to children’s achievement and hu- man capital more broadly operates through a neurobiological mechanism. Our work suggests that specific brain structures tied to processes critical for learning and educational func- tioning (eg, sustained attention, planning, and cognitive … Read More

              Gary,

              Thank you for the pointer. Here is the conclusion for others’ reference:

              “While brain structure and development may not be the only
              mechanism underlying the income achievement gap, the novel
              evidence presented in this study seems to suggest that 1 com-
              ponent linking parental SES to children’s achievement and hu-
              man capital more broadly operates through a neurobiological
              mechanism. Our work suggests that specific brain structures
              tied to processes critical for learning and educational func-
              tioning (eg, sustained attention, planning, and cognitive flex-
              ibility) are vulnerable to the environmental circumstances of
              poverty, such as stress, limited stimulation, and nutrition. If
              so, it would appear that children’s potential for academic suc-
              cess is being reduced at young ages by these circumstances.
              Such understanding should lead to public policy initiatives
              aimed at improving and decreasing disparities in human capi-
              tal. Development in these brain regions appears sensitive to
              the child’s environment and nurturance. These observations
              suggest that interventions aimed at improving children’s en-
              vironments may also alter the link between childhood pov-
              erty and deficits in cognition and academic achievement.”

              Reading the rest of the article shows the confidence levels. So brain structure matters, but the mechanisms by which poverty effects brain structure are not studied. For example, is poor nutrition the primary path to the reduction in grey matter or is it increased stress? That could be interesting to know to prioritize funds.

            • FloydThursby1941 10 months ago10 months ago

              Paul, that's what I wonder. How do some groups overcome poverty? If the poor read to their kids, didn't divorce, said no to drugs and alcohol, and spent more time on academics, would that make a huge difference? I believe it would, before age 10, I don't think it makes a huge difference if your parent is a PhD or a high school graduate or dropout, just basic education up to an … Read More

              Paul, that’s what I wonder. How do some groups overcome poverty? If the poor read to their kids, didn’t divorce, said no to drugs and alcohol, and spent more time on academics, would that make a huge difference? I believe it would, before age 10, I don’t think it makes a huge difference if your parent is a PhD or a high school graduate or dropout, just basic education up to an 8th grade level with maximum parental effort would expose them to a lot of thought processes and at some point, the kids would surpass their parents if they had strong interest. Say we increase food stamps to provide better nutrition, would that help a lot? Could we have parent education classes which would make a big difference, or is it absolute dollars and cents? Is keeping people married worth the effort? Studies show it is. Is teaching parents about nutrition and the importance of math teaching and flash cards and early education something which could mitigate the effects of poverty? The fear I have with treating this as a dollars and cents issue is that in San Francisco, black and Latino kids who are not economically disadvantaged are more likely than Asian kids who are to be advanced in math, as well as advanced or proficient in math. Poor whites show similar phenomena. I have cousins who make a lot of money but their kids have no interest in college. I’ve seen one family member build up to a solid income and then their kids, low wage jobs. Would actual dollars and cents in the form of minimum wage and increased welfare, which could discourage initiative, be most effective, or would parent education and encouragement to do all the things those in the Triple Package groups do be more effective?

          • Don 10 months ago10 months ago

            I can't access the full study not being a JAMA subscriber. I did read several reports of the study instead. There is no causative factors proven by the research as far as what I could tell. Its findings point to an increase in delayed cognition described as decreased brain mass in particular areas. It does not describe the mechanism for the decrease as much as Gary would like to have us believe other … Read More

            I can’t access the full study not being a JAMA subscriber. I did read several reports of the study instead. There is no causative factors proven by the research as far as what I could tell. Its findings point to an increase in delayed cognition described as decreased brain mass in particular areas. It does not describe the mechanism for the decrease as much as Gary would like to have us believe other than to cite poverty. Perhaps I’m wrong and Gary can enlightened us to those causative factors described in the study. I’d also like to know the reason why most of those in poverty do not present with these cognitive delays.

  6. Gary Ravani 10 months ago10 months ago

    Andrew "inadvertently" missed a couple of key sentence in the study. Many thanks to him for going into the actual study itself. Not many would go to that trouble. Except for people like me. Below you will find a couple of excerpts from the study: #1 & #2. In #1 the study strongly asserts there is a causal relationship between poverty and children's brain development and provides citations for same. "A study of adopted children by Duyme … Read More

    Andrew “inadvertently” missed a couple of key sentence in the study. Many thanks to him for going into the actual study itself. Not many would go to that trouble. Except for people like me.

    Below you will find a couple of excerpts from the study: #1 & #2.

    In #1 the study strongly asserts there is a causal relationship between poverty and children’s brain development and provides citations for same. “A study of adopted children by Duyme et al 9 provides some of the most compelling evidence that parental financial resources have a causal effect on children’s cognitive performance.”

    But, perhaps the biggest “inadvertent” oversight of Andrew’s analysis of the study is in #2 when he quoted the study here: “First, it is possible that reported differences across socioeconomic groups could have been caused by a third factor tied both to family poverty and smaller regional gray matter volumes, such as a genetic predisposition that might have led an individual to be- come poor.”

    BUT! Andrew somehow missed the very next sentence here (#2): “Our analyses mitigated concerns related to this competing explanation. We focused on regions of the brain known to undergo a protracted period of postnatal develop- ment (most likely to be influenced by environmental condi- tions), specifically, the brain’s gray matter tissue, which pre- vious work suggests is likely affected by early environment and less heritable than other brain tissues.”

    In reality the entire thrust of the article, with extensive scientific data to back it up, is that there are causal relationships between high poverty and low school achievement.

    There was a real danger here in Andrew’s having missed the key second sentence where the authors note they considered the “genetic theory” of poor brain development and “mitigated” it, i.e, discounted it, by doing further analysis. If this had not been done what we would have had was a theory of eugenics, that the poor by nature of their genetic dispositions are poor. Such a theory was proposed by the infamous “Bell Curve” written some years ago that asserted social and educational programs for the poor, and the expense (taxes!) were wasted on this population because they were incapable of being helped. This was a favorite of conservatives always looking for ways to cut programs for the needy.

    This study, in its conclusion, asserts there is immediate need for increased resources to go to the poor to mitigate learning and achievement problems. For whom the “Bell” tolls, indeed.

    I invite the interested to do a internet search for the title of the article as the link provided here only goes to a digest. It’s homework, but as a teacher I always believed that appropriate homework is a valuable thing indeed.

    Excerpts from original article (#1 & #2) flow below:

    # 1 “Children living in poverty tend to fare poorly across a variety of academic measures beginning in early childhood,8 with con- sequences found to persist to adulthood.4,5 A study of ad- opted children by Duyme et al9 provides some of the most com- pelling evidence that parental financial resources have a causal effect on children’s cognitive performance. In that study,9 the IQs of more than 5000 children were assessed prior to adop- tion and again in adolescence. Compared with children ad- opted into lower socioeconomic status (SES) families, the IQs of children adopted into higher SES families were 13 points higher in adolescence.

    #2 Our study had 2 limitations worth noting. First, it is pos- sible that reported differences across socioeconomic groups could have been caused by a third factor tied both to family poverty and smaller regional gray matter volumes, such as a genetic predisposition that might have led an individual to be- come poor. Our analyses mitigated concerns related to this competing explanation. We focused on regions of the brain known to undergo a protracted period of postnatal develop- ment (most likely to be influenced by environmental condi- tions), specifically, the brain’s gray matter tissue, which pre- vious work suggests is likely affected by early environment and less heritable than other brain tissues. Second, the National In- stitutes of Health study was designed specifically to study typi- cal development; therefore, children were screened based on factors thought to adversely affect brain development. How- ever, such adversities are disproportionately represented among impoverished children, meaning that this study exam- ined a sample of children who were likely doing better than most children living in poverty. Our analyses likely under- stated the full effects of poverty on children’s development.

    Replies

    • Don 10 months ago10 months ago

      If poverty is to blame and only 14% of academic achievement is linked to in-school factors, this should give taxpayers pause to further fund schools for 14 cents of benefit per dollar spent. It would be better to pay the other 86 cents to anti-poverty programs. But the best anti poverty program in existence is public education. So I guess we just have to conclude that no matter what we do to improve schools we … Read More

      If poverty is to blame and only 14% of academic achievement is linked to in-school factors, this should give taxpayers pause to further fund schools for 14 cents of benefit per dollar spent. It would be better to pay the other 86 cents to anti-poverty programs. But the best anti poverty program in existence is public education. So I guess we just have to conclude that no matter what we do to improve schools we will never succeed unless poverty is eradicated or we become Chinese.

      • FloydThursby1941 10 months ago10 months ago

        That’s the crux of the matter. We can’t become Chinese, but with the greater success, could we raise our kids more like Chinese Americans do (not to mention other groups)? Could we build our culture around encouraging this? The easiest time to eliminate poverty is when in school. Kids have a lot of free time to self improve. As an adult, it’s too late and there are competing priorities.

    • Don 10 months ago10 months ago

      Yes, Gary, 'people like [you]' do read the study, but they don't read the conflicting studies, critiques or other contextual information and they use whichever studies best suit their needs (classic conformation bias procedure - pick and choose your research) . Most reputable researchers avoid the conceit to promote their findings for the purpose of policy solutions. Doing so is in itself indicative of author bias. Note that Ms. Frey made no effort … Read More

      Yes, Gary, ‘people like [you]’ do read the study, but they don’t read the conflicting studies, critiques or other contextual information and they use whichever studies best suit their needs (classic conformation bias procedure – pick and choose your research) . Most reputable researchers avoid the conceit to promote their findings for the purpose of policy solutions. Doing so is in itself indicative of author bias. Note that Ms. Frey made no effort to provide any context to the study whatsoever.

      Another similar study that was reported in Scientific American this year.
      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/poverty-shrinks-brains-from-birth1/

      Here they say:

      “Researchers have long suspected that children’s behaviour and cognitive abilities are linked to their socioeconomic status, particularly for those who are very poor. The reasons have never been clear, although stressful home environments, poor nutrition, exposure to industrial chemicals such as lead and lack of access to good education are often cited as possible factors.”

      As I alluded to in another comment, these are not poverty factors per se, and can affect any social class, though they clearly have more impact people in the poorer strata. Not included in that paragraph is the multi-generational exposure to self-inflicted toxins.

      Regarding the study in question Gary might want to read (though I doubt it) the critique of the respected English research psychologist, James Thompson, the first of which debunks some the research and spotlights the shoddy methodology and the second of which puts adoption studies in perspective.

      http://drjamesthompson.blogspot.com/2015/07/poverty-of-brain-poverty-of-hypothesis.html
      http://drjamesthompson.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/adopt-child-but-discard-illusion.html

      It seems clear that some people living in poverty will be affected disproportionately by causative cognitive delay factors depending upon the culture, the region, the country and other societal variations. Since most native Chinese students are in far greater poverty while academically outperforming, it is dangerously oversimplified to claim that poverty makes people stupid.

  7. Parent 10 months ago10 months ago

    I think the correlation between poverty and poorer academic achievement has to do with the situation where you can't fire teachers whose students don't learn anything, therefore you stick them in the schools where the parents don't complain so much - which are the schools in the areas of own that are poor. Some ideas for follow on research to check my hypothesis - compare brain scans of teachers at the richer areas of town with … Read More

    I think the correlation between poverty and poorer academic achievement has to do with the situation where you can’t fire teachers whose students don’t learn anything, therefore you stick them in the schools where the parents don’t complain so much – which are the schools in the areas of own that are poor.

    Some ideas for follow on research to check my hypothesis – compare brain scans of teachers at the richer areas of town with the teachers at the poorer areas of town.

    Also compare brain scans of poor students at high performing charter schools with poor students at district schools.

    Replies

    • Gary Ravani 10 months ago10 months ago

      Parent:

      Interesting theory. You might have a few difficulties with the ideas though because, in large part, the “achievement gap” is present on the day kids enter Kindergarten and before they have encountered any teachers or any K-12 school.

      On the other hand, brain scans all around sounds good to me. Step right over here….

  8. Andrew 10 months ago10 months ago

    A more appropriate title for this article would be "Study shows association between poverty, brain development, and academic achievement." Association, i.e. correlation, does not prove "impact", i.e. causation. There is a correlation between garages and cars, but going into a garage does not cause me to be more likely to turn into a car. The full text original article containing the study is "Association of Child … Read More

    A more appropriate title for this article would be “Study shows association between poverty, brain development, and academic achievement.” Association, i.e. correlation, does not prove “impact”, i.e. causation. There is a correlation between garages and cars, but going into a garage does not cause me to be more likely to turn into a car.

    The full text original article containing the study is “Association of Child Poverty, Brain Development, and Academic Achievement.” , a title that does not claim causation. The authors do not claim to have proved causation or impact, though they did a credible job of attempting to exclude some known confounding factors (other than genetics) which might explain brain development differences other than money.

    In acknowledging the limitations of the study, the authors themselves stated, “First, it is possible that reported differences across socioeconomic groups could have been caused by a third factor tied both to family poverty and smaller regional gray matter volumes, such as a genetic predisposition that might have led an individual to become poor.”

    This is noteworthy because earlier studies, including twin studies, have shown that global brain gray matter volume is very much inherited. This study sought to focus not on global brain gray matter, but on certain regional areas of gray matter in parts of the brain suspected to be more susceptible to post-natal environment and change. The study concluded that “A typical low-income child scores lower on standardized tests of achievement and 15% to 20% of that developmental difference might be attributed to the deleterious effects of limited family resources on relative brain development. Reversing this, what the study may suggest, is that at least 80% to 85% of underachievement may not be linked to poverty induced brain underdevelopment.

    With all the the present impacts of “closing gaps” it is indeed important to determine what causes the gaps, and how much it is possible and practical to close them. Especially important is that public school teachers not be unfairly blamed for the persistence of gaps that result from factors over which teachers have no control.

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 10 months ago10 months ago

      Is it actual poverty or the cultural poverty? Why do Asian kids eligible for free or reduced lunch outperform black and Latino kids not eligible for free or reduced lunch? Kids emulate parents, so poor whites, blacks and Latinos probably set a bad example for children in terms of discipline/sacrifice vs. short-term hedonism. For instance, divorce, a key cause of poverty, shows children parents believe their own romantic pleasure is more valuable to them than … Read More

      Is it actual poverty or the cultural poverty? Why do Asian kids eligible for free or reduced lunch outperform black and Latino kids not eligible for free or reduced lunch? Kids emulate parents, so poor whites, blacks and Latinos probably set a bad example for children in terms of discipline/sacrifice vs. short-term hedonism. For instance, divorce, a key cause of poverty, shows children parents believe their own romantic pleasure is more valuable to them than the impact of doubling their children’s odds of homelessness or prison and cutting in half odds of a degree, with a convenient in my case it’s different. It’s self delusion, very similar to those who feel they should own a gun because they know how to use it so they are immune from the stat gun owners are more likely to have gun deaths in their home, or individuals who claim they can drive well even when drunk due to superior coordination. We can believe anything, but not really. Also these parents probably show this by choosing to play games with, watch TV with or ignore their kids rather than study with them, do drugs/alcohol/smoke, or spend money on conspicuous consumption rather than tutoring services. Asians do the opposite of this, on average, and even those who are poor see their kids thrive. It’s not a coincidence and it’s not because they were once rich in Asia. It’s cultural. Kids of uneducated parents from Asia still push to reach their full potential in school. It takes effort.

      Yes, among native born Americans, rich generally teach their kids to put kids before self, childraising before personal romantic happiness, sobriety before drugs/alcohol, education before flash, studying before leisure. They probably did these things which is why they are not poor. They pass that on. But poor Asians prove there is another way. Teachers and schools should really push this narrative and encourage all families to maximize studying in their leisure time, to turn off the TV and read books, even if you can only afford to borrow them from the library, and to teach kids to really be focused on maximizing grades and test scores.

      The poor shouldn’t feel disempowered. They should feel like if they make the right choices, poverty will end with their children going to college, graduating and having a bright future.

    • Susan Frey 10 months ago10 months ago

      Good point Andrew. I added “may” to the headline.

      • Don 10 months ago10 months ago

        Yes, Ms. Frey, you did add "may", but not from the outset. By not doing the obvious in the first place you showed everyone just how willing you are to accept the study as definitive because it suits your political agenda. You probably read the results where it says, "Poverty is tied to structural differences in several areas of the brain associated with school readiness skills, with the largest influence observed among children from the … Read More

        Yes, Ms. Frey, you did add “may”, but not from the outset. By not doing the obvious in the first place you showed everyone just how willing you are to accept the study as definitive because it suits your political agenda.

        You probably read the results where it says, “Poverty is tied to structural differences in several areas of the brain associated with school readiness skills, with the largest influence observed among children from the poorest households.” Then you came up with your title, but substituted “tied” with “shows”. Because the subjects are poor and have brain structure differences doesn’t show enough to conclude,” Study of brain scans shows impact of poverty on academic achievement.” It shows a relationship, a correlation. The researchers have yet to be able to say definitively it is more than just an association because there is no proven causation, though conceivably the causation is there. However, doesn’t the character of the poverty which can vary considerably between cultures and countries have a role? Poverty can mean so many things to different people that it is hard to use it as a constant in a study. Perhaps people who aren’t poor enough to not have a TV suffer from overexposure. Perhaps they aren’t poor enough to not be able to afford a diet of fast food. Perhaps the welfare culture and work ethic is to blame. Perhaps generational drug and alcohol exposure is to blame, to cite a few variances in the character of poverty. Why do much poorer Chinese students far outperform their American counterparts who are classified as poor but based upon a far higher standard?

        Why did the researchers try to adjust for genetics rather than simply test the parents?. Why did they choose to use a less definitive route when a better result could be had where parents were not absent?

        Ms.Frey, your adjustment was a little too late in my opinion. But, honestly, as a reporter you wear your personal views on your sleeve. I would imagine everyone is already aware of the slant you bring to bear, not to just your choice of topics, but to their representations in your articles.

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