According to an article 'Poverty is Poison' in today's New York Times:
neuroscientists have found that “many children growing up in very poor families with low social status experience unhealthy levels of stress hormones, which impair their neural development.” The effect is to impair language development and memory — and hence the ability to escape poverty — for the rest of the child’s life.
Poverty News Blog reports on the same study:
Studies by several US universities have revealed the pervasive harm done to the brain, particularly between the ages of six months and three years, from low socio-economic status.
Martha Farah, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s centre for cognitive neuroscience, said: “The biggest effects are on language and memory. The finding about memory impairment – the ability to encounter a pattern and remember it – really surprised us.”
Interventions in the first few years of a child's life is vital:
Jack Shonkoff, director of Harvard University’s centre on the developing child, said policymakers had to take note of the research because “the foundation of all social problems later in life takes place in the early years”.“The earlier you intervene [to counteract the impact of poverty], the better the outcome in the end, because the brain loses its plasticity [adaptability] as the child becomes older,” he said.
What happens if this small window of neurological adaptability is lost?
Once poor, always poor?