Some days my head is just way too full of shit.
This got me thinking about some of the things rattling around in there. So now my random association machine is going at full throttle.
First: There are so many things wrong with a study like this.
Primarily, it was obviously not designed by someone who had ever truly been poor. Anyone who managed by some miracle to escape poverty into even the lower rungs of the middle class, especially if they’d been a scholarship kid, knows that there is so much more than income that drives intelligence and development. Any exposure to wealth by anyone who’d been poor is like a walk in the mirror universe.
There is an unspoken ease that you feel in the presence of someone who hasn’t really known hunger (I’m sure that feeling is similar between someone who has known the occasional stretch of empty cupboards, like myself, and someone who was truly been HUNGRY) there is an unknown specter that hangs over the food secure, that only in my adult life was I able to identify.
Granted, it is not possible to get the full scope of such a grand experiment in a short article, nor is it possible to explore every nuance of poverty, especially viewed through the lens of those who “have.” Regardless of any of that being someone who spent some significant amount of time, as a child and as the head of a household, on the upper rungs of the poverty ladder I already see some clear omissions.
It is relevant that this comes up now though, especially when the discussion of eugenics (Race and I.Q. most notably) is back in vogue. We are seeing poverty in stalker contrasts now as it relates to privilege and denial of privilege.
Being poor is becoming a caste in the U.S..
Here comes the brain dump:
So a few of the things one needs to take into account that come along with even a small boost in income are as follows:
- Exposure to culture. Poor kids get (some) sports, middle class kids get sports and piano, slightly richer kids get different sports, cello and museums and history, richer still get to see and experience them all. Yes, it is a broad oversimplification, but if experience is the best teacher, learning about Africa or Europe and going there are very different experiences. Studying Jazz, Classical or any genre of any art and EXPERIENCING them are also very different things. Now there are plenty of parents I know who have very limited means who found a way to give their kids exposure to all of he above and I give them all due credit, but being of means makes these things not just optional but in many cases obligatory.
- Exposure to lead (and other toxins). On the other hand, poverty, is literally toxic. Environmental factors are a huge determinant and can be a severe detriment if the environment is toxic. Poor people have lead exposure levels that are still much higher then they should be. Other environmental factors from pollution in both rural and urban environments have been shown to affect fetal development and IQ and in some studies are shown to be more significant than genetics. A study of Indian children draws some wider conclusions making the multi-factor argument better than I can.
- The culture of achievement. This is a tough one because you can easily come off as a bigot but the aspirations, and examples you are surrounded by have a huge influence on your motivation. Now this is regardless of race or location and is primarily one of the reasons for the current rural backlash as people who had always had a familial association with hands on trades like farming felt the same wave of doubt and dislocation as people in urban areas felt when manufacturing jobs fled. The burgeoning Black middle class had barely had a chance to take root when the rug was pulled out from under them, it didn’t go well. White rural America is coming to the same realization, it won’t go well. Basically, if you see agility in your life going forward, you are much more likely to prepare to be agile, if you see your father’s, father’s lifestyle disappearing and that lifestyle isn’t just a living but an identity, there is much more at stake.
- Food Insecurity/Exhaustion. Some parents, or parent, just work too much to get any face time with their kids. The combination of poor nutrition and exhaustion is for many people the very definition of poverty. Poverty is a syndrome, with moving parts that often swap and change over time and a host of symptoms that need multiple inoculations and will likely take years even decades to just get under control. In my mind its obvious that there is not one single factor, one single cure or one single method or ideology that can be employed to help.
Studying poverty and all its aspects is important, that goes without saying, but one single study studying a few aspects of poverty will barely put a dent into our understanding. Poor people know more about poverty than anyone, they experience it and the anxiety that comes with it and live with that reality. Poverty changes your chemistry, rewires your brain and focuses your attention on survival in ways that aren’t apparent to anyone who never lived it. I have a few suggestions for things that would help as do many experts but without buy in from the people expected to benefit from them our every effort will ultimately fail.