Study finds brains of poorer children shrink in size

Poverty has an effect on children’s brains

As if the brain drain causing Greece’s most educated to leave the country for a better future abroad wasn’t a big enough problem for Greece, the latest scientific research shows that children from low-income families feel the effects on their brains. The stress of poverty, even very small differences in income, can have major effects on brain development. Nature Neuroscience publishes data from research led by Kimberly Noble of the Columbia University in New York and Elizabeth Sowell from the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, California.

The two neuroscientists imaged the brains of 1,099 children, adolescents and young adults in several US cities. The study found that children from the lowest income bracket – less than US25,000 had 6% less surface area than those of families making more than US$150,000. Even salary differences of just a few thousand dollars went a long way in brain structure, particularly in areas associated with language and decision-making skills. The children from lower incomes scored worse on tests measuring cognitive skills such as reading and memory ability.