Dr. Michael Omidi discusses new research that highlights the true damage poverty causes a child's brain.
Poverty has been widely associated with lower academic performance for children. The longer a child lives in poverty, often the more they fall behind with an academic deficit. A study published on Monday by JAMA Pediatrics wanted to see if there was a correlation between poverty and lower academic performance because of atypical patterns of structural brain development. The results are startling.
The researchers studied magnetic resonance imaging scans of developing children and adolescents age 4 to 22 years of age. In total, they looked at 829 images. These tests included all socioeconomic data and neuroimaging data. Collection of the data occurred from 2001 to 2007. Recruiting was held at 6 data sites across the U.S. and participants were assessed for any factors that may adversely impact brain development. One quarter of the sample reported to be living 200% under the federal poverty line.
The researchers found that poverty was tied to structural differences in several areas of the brain that account for academic performance. For some, the difference in gray matter in the brain was a difference of 8 to 10%. These differences accounted for the children's academic difficulties.
The researchers concluded that the effect of poverty on learning was mediated by the differences in the structures of the children's brains. They suggested for those living 150% below the federal poverty line, extra resources should be targeted during early childhood to help remediate the early childhood environment. For a family of four, the federal poverty line is earning an income below $24,000.
This research shows that those living in poverty have large gaps to overcome that are structural in the brain. If they aren't given the proper resources, they will most likely have a difficulty advancing academically and into a higher earning career later in life. These children must be targeted to ensure they get additional resources need to advance in life. If not, poverty will continue to be perpetual in nature, and remain an ongoing problem.
Yours in health,
Dr. Michael Omidi is the co-founder of No More Poverty, a nonprofit that advocates to change poverty in America and around the world.