“Baby Money: Can Cash Allowances Help Young Brains Grow?”

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The Story

“Baby Money: Can Cash Allowances Help Young Brains Grow?”
by Paul Tullis
The American Prospect, October 13, 2017

The Pitch

(Picked up by American Prospect but pitched to Capital & Main

Unconditional cash payments to poor moms 

Research over the last decade has shown that kids from poorer, less-educated families have smaller parts of the brain associated with language and executive function. Small increases in income had larger positive effects among poor kids than the same increase among rich kids. Now, a neuroscientist at Columbia wants to prove causality: She’s going to start to give $333 a month to one set of poor moms-to-be and $20 to another set, for 3 years beginning at birth, to see what the effect is. Direct cash payments have been shown in the developing world to have outsize effects on poor families; as Noble wrote in the Washington Post, “Research in the United States suggests that higher income during the first two years of a low-income child’s life is associated with remarkable differences in long-term prospects, including higher adult earnings, more hours spent in the workforce and even improved health in adulthood. To date, however, the effects of cash on children’s brain development remain untested.”

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