Effect of poverty on little brains

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A note for Lesson no. 3, "Little Brains Wire Themselves to Their World," in Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context from page 60‌ is:

Research shows that early and long exposure to poverty is bad for the developing brain.

In 2018, one in six children (16.2% of all children, 11.9 million kids) lived in poverty within the United States. Global estimates of childhood poverty around the world are not available, but it is estimated (using information from the World Bank) that half of the people living in extreme poverty around the world are under 18 years of age.

Poverty is one of the biggest risks for a developing brain and poor developmental outcomes. To read about poverty and its effects on infants and young children, read A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty[1] and see these references.[2][3][4][5]

Both poverty and living in a low-income household (which is not the same as living in poverty) influence brain development and school performance, but not necessarily in the same way. For more on the influences of living in low-income conditions, see these references.[6][7][8][9]


  1. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  2. Hair, Nicole L., Jamie L. Hanson, Barbara L. Wolfe, and Seth D. Pollak. 2015. "Association of Child Poverty, Brain Development, and Academic Achievement." JAMA Pediatrics 169 (9): 822–829.
  3. Luby, Joan, Andy Belden, Kelly Botteron, Natasha Marrus, Michael P. Harms, Casey Babb, Tomoyuki Nishino, and Deanna Barch. 2013. "The Effects of Poverty on Childhood Brain Development: The Mediating Effect of Caregiving and Stressful Life Events." JAMA Pediatrics 167 (12): 1135–1142.
  4. Johnson, Sara B., Jenna L. Riis, and Kimberly G. Noble. 2016. "State of the Art Review: Poverty and the Developing Brain." Pediatrics 137 (4): e20153075.
  5. Brody, Gene H., Joshua C. Gray, Tianyi Yu, Allen W. Barton, Steven R. H. Beach, Adrianna Galván, James MacKillop, Michael Windle, Edith Chen, Gregory E. Miller, and Lawrence H. Sweet. 2017. “Protective Prevention Effects on the Association of Poverty with Brain Development.” JAMA Pediatrics 171 (1): 46–52. (See also the references therein.)
  6. Noble, Kimberly G., Suzanne M. Houston, Natalie H. Brito, Hauke Bartsch, Eric Kan, Joshua M. Kuperman, Natacha Akshoomoff, et al. 2015. "Family Income, Parental Education and Brain Structure in Children And Adolescents." Nature Neuroscience 18 (5): 773–778.
  7. Hackman, Daniel A., and Martha J. Farah. 2009. "Socioeconomic Status and the Developing Brain." Trends in Cognitive Sciences 13 (2): 65–73.
  8. Hackman, Daniel A., Martha J. Farah, and Michael J. Meaney. 2010. "Socioeconomic Status and the Brain: Mechanistic Insights From Human and Animal Research." Nature Reviews Neuroscience 11 (9): 651–659.
  9. Cohen, Sheldon, Denise Janicki‐Deverts, Edith Chen, and Karen A. Matthews. 2010. "Childhood Socioeconomic Status and Adult Health." Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1186 (1): 37–55.