Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Your poverty is in your brain

We sort of knew that already.  The correlation between low IQ and poverty is well-attested. The latest journal article below however takes the story a bit further in that it identifies which brain regions are responsible.  Certain areas of poor people's brains are actually shrunken! The authors seem to have frightened themselves by their boldness, however, as they have tacked a totally illogical conclusion on to their findings.

If poverty is a result of the shrunken brain you were born with, does it not follow that there is not much you can do about it?  The authors below avoid that conclusion.  Instead they say that poor households "should be targeted for additional resources aimed at remediating early childhood environments".   An hereditary problem can be fixed by changing the environment?  That's a pretty good Non Sequitur as far as I can see.

It's not totally daft in that genetics accounts for only about two thirds of IQ.  There are some other influences that have an effect.  But all the research shows that family environment is NOT part of those other influences on IQ.   It's jarring but that is what all the twin studies show. So the hairy lady and her colleagues below are just ignoring the evidence.  But they need to in order to sound nicely Leftist about it all.

Footnote:  The authors of course avoid the term "IQ" like the plague but the standardized tests  of  academic achievement they used are little more than IQ tests and correlate highly with acknowledged measures of IQ.  So their findings show that IQ, income and brain development all cluster together.

Association of Child Poverty, Brain Development, and Academic Achievement

By Nicole L. Hair et al.


Importance:  Children living in poverty generally perform poorly in school, with markedly lower standardized test scores and lower educational attainment. The longer children live in poverty, the greater their academic deficits. These patterns persist to adulthood, contributing to lifetime-reduced occupational attainment.

Objective:  To determine whether atypical patterns of structural brain development mediate the relationship between household poverty and impaired academic performance.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  Longitudinal cohort study analyzing 823 magnetic resonance imaging scans of 389 typically developing children and adolescents aged 4 to 22 years from the National Institutes of Health Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study of Normal Brain Development with complete sociodemographic and neuroimaging data. Data collection began in November 2001 and ended in August 2007. Participants were screened for a variety of factors suspected to adversely affect brain development, recruited at 6 data collection sites across the United States, assessed at baseline, and followed up at 24-month intervals for a total of 3 periods. Each study center used community-based sampling to reflect regional and overall US demographics of income, race, and ethnicity based on the US Department of Housing and Urban Development definitions of area income. One-quarter of sample households reported the total family income below 200% of the federal poverty level. Repeated observations were available for 301 participants.

Exposure  Household poverty measured by family income and adjusted for family size as a percentage of the federal poverty level.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  Children's scores on cognitive and academic achievement assessments and brain tissue, including gray matter of the total brain, frontal lobe, temporal lobe, and hippocampus.

Results:  Poverty is tied to structural differences in several areas of the brain associated with school readiness skills, with the largest influence observed among children from the poorest households. Regional gray matter volumes of children below 1.5 times the federal poverty level were 3 to 4 percentage points below the developmental norm (P less than .05). A larger gap of 8 to 10 percentage points was observed for children below the federal poverty level (P less than .05). These developmental differences had consequences for children's academic achievement. On average, children from low-income households scored 4 to 7 points lower on standardized tests (P less than .05). As much as 20% of the gap in test scores could be explained by maturational lags in the frontal and temporal lobes.

Conclusions and Relevance:  The influence of poverty on children's learning and achievement is mediated by structural brain development. To avoid long-term costs of impaired academic functioning, households below 150% of the federal poverty level should be targeted for additional resources aimed at remediating early childhood environments.

JAMA Pediatr. Published online July 20, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.1475


The Different Social Visions of Liberals and Conservatives

Excerpt from the Heritage Foundation's 2015 Index of Culture and Opportunity

The nature of America's political and policy debates can sometimes foster a profound misun-derstanding of the nature of American society-and indeed of all human societies. To make challenges easier to understand and address, people divide pol-itics into discrete "issues" and try to take them up individually. There are education debates, welfare debates, and entitlement debates. There are infra-structure bills and immigration bills and defense bills. There is a health care system and a financial system and a transportation system.

Dividing up public affairs in this way presents each "issue" as a distinct set of problems in search of a distinct set of solutions, and political debates pro-ceed as arguments about the nature of the problems and the desirability of various proposed solutions in each case.

This is a sensible way to think about a lot of the challenges America faces, but it is inadequate when it comes to the most important and most difficult challenges-those that have to do with the underly-ing health and strength of the nation as a whole and therefore with the prerequisites for human flourish-ing, for prosperity, for opportunity, and for liberty in this country.

Americans have clearly had the sense in recent years that the country is in some trouble on this front-that too many of our fellow citizens are denied the opportunity to lead flourishing lives, that prosperity and economic mobility are too often out of reach, and that the liberty that gives meaning and substance to the American Dream is in danger.

Thinking about these broadest and deepest of our public problems brings out most powerfully some of the key differences between conservatives and lib-erals in America. The left and the right think about society in different ways.

For conservatives, a society is ultimately and above all an intergenerational compact-a kind of sacred trust across time-for the protection of fun-damental natural rights and the advancement of essential human goods. We the living members of American society are graced with a magnificent inheritance and are entrusted to preserve and refine its strengths, to work to mitigate its weaknesses, and to pass it along in even better condition to those who will come after.

Conservatives understand society as an organic outgrowth-a kind of sum and sub-stance-of a set of social arrangements that begin in loving family attachments, spread outward into per-sonal commitments and relationships in civil soci-ety and local communities, reach further outward toward broader state and regional affinities, and conclude in a national identity that among its fore-most attributes is dedicated to the principle of the equality of the entire human race.

Society is thus like a set of concentric rings, begin-ning with the most concrete and personal of human connections and concluding with the most abstract and philosophical of human commitments. Each ring, starting from the innermost sanctum of the family and the individuals who compose it, anchors and enables the next and is in turn protected by it and given the room to thrive. The outermost ring of society is guarded and sustained by the national gov-ernment, which is charged with protecting the space in which the entire society can thrive-the space between the individual and the nation as a whole, the space occupied by society. This means that it must neither invade that space nor allow it to collapse.

How liberals understand the nature of society

Liberals proceed from a rather different general understanding of the nature of society. The left's social vision tends to consist of individuals and the state so that, essentially, all common action is ulti-mately government action. On this view, the govern-ment's purpose is to liberate individuals from mate-rial want and moral sway. As former Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.. put it at the Democratic National Convention in 2012, "There are things that a civilized society needs that we can only do if we do them together, and [when] we do them together that's called government."

The mediating institutions that fill the space between the individual and the government are often viewed by the left with suspicion. They are seen as instruments of division, prejudice, and selfishness or as power centers lacking in democratic legitimacy.

Liberals have frequently sought to empower the government to undercut the influence of these insti-tutions and put in their place public programs and policies motivated by a single, cohesive understand-ing of the public interest. Their hope is to level the complex social topography of the space between the individual and the government, breaking up tightly knit clusters of citizens into individuals but then uniting all of those individuals under the national banner-allowing them to be free of family or com-munity norms while building solidarity through the common experience of living as equal citizens of a great nation.

This basic difference of social visions helps to explain why conservatives and liberals sometimes understand our society's deepest problems so differ-ently. To many liberals, who view society as a com-pact among individuals for their mutual material betterment, the persistence of entrenched pover-ty, family breakdown, social dysfunction, and poor mobility in many communities in America looks like a function of a failure to allocate resources proper-ly.

Liberals often blame these phenomena on selfish interests that they believe actively stand in the way of social progress. Their solution is to double down on the basic liberal approach to social policy: to pro-mote public programs that address economic imbal-ances through redistribution.

To conservatives, who view society as an intergen-erational compact for the preservation of the prereq-uisites for human flourishing to be advanced through the complex, layered architecture of our mediating institutions, the persistence of such daunting social problems suggests a breakdown of these core insti-tutions, especially those that are deepest and closest to the core: the family and civil society.

The importance of intergenerational obligations

Because our most important social institutions are those that are most defined by intergeneration-al obligations, our most significant social problems are often those that arise at the juncture of the gen-erations: failure of family formation, failure to meet parental obligations, failure to protect the very youngest and the very oldest-the most innocent and vulnerable among our fellow citizens.

Because freedom is ultimately made possible by and exists for the sake of our most direct and person-al commitments, the greatest challenges to liberty are challenges to the freedom of action of our insti-tutions of civil society-challenges that are often advanced under the banner of liberating individuals but that actually take the form of restricting dissent and constraining expression and action (as we have seen of late, for instance, in some prominent public battles over religious liberty).

Because liberals tend to ignore the significance of much that happens at the juncture of the genera-tions and much that is done by our mediating insti-tutions, they often find themselves perplexed by the deepest and most enduring social problems we con-front-unable to explain the problems' persistence except by inventing scapegoats to blame and incapa-ble of addressing them except by frantically moving money around in the hope of finding just the right balance of payments to heal our society.

Conservatives, on the other hand, know that explaining the persistence of entrenched, intergen-erational poverty-despite half a century of mas-sive public programs to address it-requires tak-ing into account the interconnectedness of the generations and the institutions that make up com-munities. Conservatives blame neither any malice of the wealthy and powerful nor any failure of will among the poor, but instead the intrinsic inclination of all human beings to fall into self-serving apathy or self-defeating vice in the absence of sound social institutions and norms.

Conservatives understand that material poverty and spiritual disorder exac-erbate one another in an ever-intensifying spiral of misery that can be broken only by material support and social order-a blend of aid and love that must be delivered in person. A true social safety net has to involve more than a government check.

That is why liberals seeking to describe the most significant challenges our country now confronts tend to resort to abstract portraits of inequality while conservatives point to the key indicators of social health and human flourishing-that is, to the state of American families and of civil society.

That is what this index does and why it does it. The institutions it tracks are those that fill the space between the individual and the state: fami-lies, schools, local religious and civic institutions, and a robust free economy. The trends it follows chart the state of the core prerequisites for a flour-ishing society. The questions it asks are those that conservatives take to be essential to understanding the state of American life.

And the answers it finds are, in all too many cases, quite distressing. Family breakdown, an enervation of civil society, a dearth of educational and econom-ic opportunities, and a lack of social mobility stand in the way of far too many Americans. Not all of the trends are depressing; even some crucial ones like teen pregnancy and abortion rates are moving in the right direction. But the general picture for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged Americans is one of social and economic disadvantage building upon one another in a cycle of ruin that the nation must not abide.

This diagnosis does not come complete with neat prescriptions. Addressing America's current social and economic dysfunction will be no easy feat. But in order to try, society needs a clear picture of the challenges it confronts. That means first asking the right questions, an endeavor often thwarted by the politics of "issues" and the radical individualism that is so endemic today.


There is a  new  lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


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