Thursday, October 22, 2015

Thought you might be interested Thursday: new research on poverty

New Findings From War on Poverty: Just Give Cash author Noah Smith examines the latest research on poverty and concludes that giving cash to the poor can break the cycle of poverty.

No matter your perspective―that better behavior will lead the poor out of poverty or conversely, that addressing society structures will help the poor leave poverty―the latest research, according to Smith, shows that "Even if bad behavior does make poverty worse, it’s also the case that poverty causes bad behavior in the first place."

Smith considers work by the National Bureau of Economic Research, work published in Nature Neuroscience, and work done by Harvard economist Sendhil Mullainathan.   NBER researchers, for example, have found that "giving poor families money, on top of the benefits they already receive, improves their children’s behavior."   The study published in Nature Neuroscience has identified

a correlation between child brain structure and family income. Simply put, family income is correlated with children’s brain surface area, especially among poor children. More money, bigger-brained kids.

And Mullainathan has asserted with Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much co-author Eldar Shafir, that scarcity insidiously creates "mindsets that rarely consider long-term best interests."   (Read more in The Science of Scarcity: A behavioral economist's fresh perspectives on poverty.)

All find, in some form or fashion, something different than what conservatives and liberals normally think and propose.   That's why Smith suggests that this "research should change how we think about poverty and welfare."

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