In the United States there is one idea that is universally cherished – the idea of the American dream. At the heart of this construction is the belief that in a free society people are able to pull themselves up through sheer determination. It is the idea that anyone can be the next great entrepreneur, the next celebrity actor or even the next president. In recent years, this ideal has come under attack from a number of corners. Children who aren’t spoken to as often at home, a trend that is more likely to occur in low-income families, enter the traditional education system at a distinct disadvantage. Having heard significantly fewer works, their grasp of language is already below average. This disadvantage compounds over time. Certainly someone who doesn’t need to work through college will have more time to study. Moreover, as they say, it takes money to make money. A person with a padded trust fund can make very different decisions than someone who needs to pay their way through life, or even support family members at a young age.
Most people now agree that it is easier for some people to excel than others. Still, the dream lives on. As long as you work hard to overcome the obstacles of your upbringing, our society embraces upward social and economic mobility. What if, however, growing up poor impacts the very structure of your brain?
A recent study says just that. In a study of 1,0999 children between the ages of 3 and 20 years old, researchers found that even small differences in family income resulted in relatively large differences in cognitive development among poorer children. Small differences mattered less between children who were comparatively well-off. Specifically, the brains of children from poorer families exhibited less surface area. The poorer the child, the smaller the surface area. As hurdles go, this is a stunningly major one, lending credence to the idea that our nation’s youth should be better protected from the consequences of poverty.