Saturday, August 31, 2013


Poverty is a cause of stress, so it's not surprising that it diminishes our cognitive abilities.  So, once you fall into poverty, it's more difficult to climb out because of your diminished ability.
Poverty can sap brainpower, research shows
By AMINA KHAN | Los Angeles Times
Posted on Friday, August 30, 2013

The findings, published in Friday's edition of the journal Science, indicate that an urgent need - making rent, getting money for food - tugs at the attention so much that it can reduce the brainpower of anyone who experiences it, regardless of innate intelligence or personality.

For half the subjects, the hypothetical bill was $150, a relatively low amount. For the other half, it was $1,500 - enough to make a person of modest means do some mental arithmetic.

Then the shoppers took a spatial intelligence test and another that measured their ability to control their impulses. The rich did fine no matter what the repair cost. The poor did OK too when the bill was just $150. But when it was $1,500, their IQ test scores dropped by 13 points.

To see whether the effect was universal, the researchers traveled to India and surveyed 464 sugar cane farmers before and after a harvest.

Sugar cane farmers get paid only once a year. One month before harvest time, cash is running low; one month after harvest, they're flush with funds.

The farmers took the spatial intelligence and a different kind of cognitive control test before and after harvest. When they were strapped for cash, they performed worse on the IQ test and took slightly longer to answer questions on the cognitive control test than they did when money wasn't a problem.

The drop was substantial, Mullainathan said - about 9 IQ points.

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