Study: Poverty reduces brain function in children

Advocates for “closing the achievement gap” pay attention: a new study from the University of California, Berkeley, shows dramatically reduced brain function in poor children when compared to children from high-income homes.

“It is a similar pattern to what’s seen in patients with strokes that have led to lesions in their prefrontal cortex,” which controls higher-order thinking and problem solving, says lead researcher Mark Kishiyama, a cognitive psychologist at the University of California-Berkeley. “It suggests that in these kids, prefrontal function is reduced or disrupted in some way.”

As has been argued here and elsewhere, actually closing the achievement gap will require a co-ordinated anti-poverty effort beyond the scope of any single school district. This study serves to reinforce that basic fact of social science.

The “achievement gap” is a symptom of the “income gap,” the “opportunity gap” and many other gaps. Drill and test all you want, even if you improve test scores, you’re still not doing anything real to address the problems faced by poor children.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.