Cash assistance to poor mothers improves brain function in babies, study finds

The question of whether cash assistance helps or harms children is at the heart of social policy. Progressives argue that poor children ...


The question of whether cash assistance helps or harms children is at the heart of social policy. Progressives argue that poor children need a minimum income, citing research that shows even brief periods of child poverty can lead to lower adult incomes and poorer health. Conservatives say unconditional payments erode work and marriage, increasing long-term poverty.

President Bill Clinton changed the position of the Democratic Party a quarter of a century ago by removing social guarantees and shifting assistance to working parents. Although child poverty later fell to record lows, the reasons are disputed, and rising inequality and volatility have revived Democratic support for the grants. Many other wealthy countries offer large unconditional family allowances.

The temporary expanding the child tax credit, passed last year, offered grants to all but the wealthiest parents at an annual cost of more than $100 billion. Representative Suzan DelBene, Democrat of Washington, said the study strengthens the case for aid by showing that “investing in our children has incredible long-term benefits”.

Greg J. Duncan, an economist at the University of California, Irvine, who was one of nine co-authors on the study, said he hoped the research would refocus the debate, which he said was ” almost always about the risks that parents might work less or use the money frivolously” to the question of “whether the payments are good for the children”.

But a conservative welfare critic, Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, argued that the study justified tough welfare laws, which he attributed to reducing child poverty by encouraging parents to find and keep a job.

“If you really believe child poverty has these negative effects, you shouldn’t try to reinstate unconditional financial assistance,” he said. “You certainly don’t want to get into the business of reversing welfare reform.”

Economists and psychologists once dominated studies of poor children, but neuroscientists have more and more weighed. Over the past 15 years, they have shown that poor children on average differ from others in structure and function of the brain, with the greatest disparities for the poorest children.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Cash assistance to poor mothers improves brain function in babies, study finds
Cash assistance to poor mothers improves brain function in babies, study finds
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