Cash aid to poor mothers boosts brain activity in babies, study shows

Central to social policy is the question of whether financial aid helps or harms children. Progressives argue that poor children need a minimum income, citing research showing that even short periods of child poverty can lead to lower adult earnings and poorer health. Conservatives say unconditional payments erode work and marriage, increasing long-term poverty.

President Bill Clinton changed the Democratic Party’s stance a quarter of a century ago by abolishing Social Security guarantees and shifting aid to working parents. Although child poverty subsequently fell to record lows, the reasons are disputed, and rising inequality and volatility have revived democratic support for subsidies. Many other rich countries offer broad child benefits with no conditions.

The temporary extension of the child tax credit, approved last year, provided subsidies to all but the wealthiest parents at an annual cost of more than $100 billion. Washington Democrat Representative Suzan DelBene said the study bolsters the advocacy of 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 the study’s nine co-authors, said he hoped the research would refocus the debate, which he says “almost always has been about the risks involved.” that parents could walk.” work less or use the money lightly’ towards the question of ‘whether the payments are good for children’.

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

“If you really believe that child poverty has these negative effects, then you shouldn’t try to restore unconditional financial aid,” he said. “You certainly don’t want to concern yourself with rolling back social reforms.”

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

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