Distinguished Professor of Education
University of California, Irvine
The causal impact of poverty reduction on infants and their families
Early childhood poverty has long been associated with school achievement, educational attainment, adult earnings and, more recently, functional neural development. Two family-process pathways have been proposed – a “what money can buy” path consisting of the child enrichment and other time and money expenditures made by parents on behalf of their children, and a “stress” pathway that operates through parental mental health and parenting sensitivity. Unclear in these mostly correlational studies is whether poverty causes developmental and family process differences early in life. The seminar will describe early results on family process and infant EEG power from a randomized control trial (RCT) of poverty reduction. Participants were 1000 mother-infant dyads who enrolled in Baby’s First Years, the first randomized control study of poverty reduction in early childhood in the United States. Mothers and their infants were recruited in hospital maternity wards in four U.S. metropolitan areas (New York City, the greater New Orleans metropolitan area, the greater Omaha metropolitan area, and the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul). Shortly after giving birth, mothers were randomized to either a “high-cash gift group,” receiving $333/month, or a “low-cash gift group,” receiving $20 per month. The presentation will focus on group differences (i.e., treatment effects) in mediators and outcomes and on the possibly policy implications of these differences.