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New Study Says Being Poor Makes It Harder To Think Straight

Submitted by on August 31, 2013 – 9:49 amNo Comment

A new study from researchers at Harvard and Princeton has found that regular financial strain can significantly lower IQ and cognitive abilities. The finding could be further evidence that poverty is more the result of situation, and not laziness or innate incompetence.

The researchers studied two groups: low- and middle-income people in New Jersey, and farmers in India. In New Jersey, they prepped each respondent with a question about a car urgently needing $1,500 in repairs, and then tested their basic cognitive skills. They found that the poorer subjects performed worse after thinking about financial hardships.

In India, they conducted similar tests before and after the harvest season. Before the harvest is when the farmers are at their most financial strained, and after is when they are at their most financially secure. Similarly, they found that the farmers’ cognitive skills were worse before the harvest, which could not entirely be attributed to other conditions.

The researchers concluded that poverty consumes so much cognitive ability (worrying about and thinking about how to get by) that it leaves little room for other thought.

The study showed a drop in IQ equivalent to that of losing a full night of sleep. One of the lead researchers painted a vivid picture, speaking to the Washington Post:

“Poverty is the equivalent of pulling an all-nighter,” said Harvard economist Sandhil Mullainathan, another of the study’s authors. “Picture yourself after an all-nighter. Being poor is like that every day.”

What do you think? Is poverty the fault of the person, or their situation?


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