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Poverty Reduces Cognitive Capacity
The fact that poverty makes life harder is hardly news, but the science that shows how poverty reduces cognitive capacity is. The accompanying infographic below shows the correlation – poverty consumes mental resources, which reduces IQ and leaves less capacity for other tasks.
Two of my nieces were a week away from college finals. Both were talking about late nights, and mind-diminishing fatigue, and both took heart in the fact that it was only a temporary condition. Harvard Economist, Sandhil Mullainathan, says: “Poverty is the equivalent of pulling an all-nighter. Picture yourself after an all-nighter. Being poor is like that every day”. I would further say: Imagine being a single Mom with two children, the youngest of which has a serious medical condition. Then imagine not knowing how you will purchase the medications for your child and food for the upcoming week. Or how you will explain to your older child why you can’t buy school pictures this year.
Raising a family is hard work, doing it on the mental capacity equivalent to pulling an all-nighter, inconceivable. The Social Work Degree Center infographic also shows that more than half of us will live in poverty at some point before we are age 65, and woman and children experience the greatest poverty. Currently, in Washington, 1 in 5 children live below the poverty line. Poverty isn’t the struggle of a few in our country; it is the reality of many.
This past spring, WithinReach Chief Program Officer Sharon Beaudoin spoke on a CityClub panel about the effects of poverty on health. More importantly, Sharon and fellow panelists, Ben Danielson, MD, (Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic), Gordon McHenry (Solid Ground), and Sam Whiting (Thrive By Five) talked about what we can do to support families living in poverty, how we can change the picture. The conversation was many-sided.
The first step to changing this reality is being aware of how poverty affects millions of families every day. Despite operating with limited capacity due to poverty, social injustice, health inequity, lack of access and more, Dr. Danielson was quick to remind us that the families we serve everyday are strong and resourceful. Let’s keep the conversation going, and make the connections Washington families need to be healthy!