Wealth may affect the brain, TC's Noble argues in Wall Stree... | Teachers College Columbia University

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Wealth may affect the brain, TC's Noble argues in Wall Street Journal Letter to the Editor

On March 24, 2015 Charles Murray published “Why the SAT Isn’t a ‘Student Affluence’ Test” as an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal. TC faculty member Kimberly Noble responded with the following Letter to the Editor, which was published by the Wall Street Journal onTuesday, March 31, 2015. Noble, who is currently both a  TC Visiting Professor and Director of the Neurocognition, Early Experience and Development Lab of Columbia University Medical Center, will join TC’s faculty as Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Education in July. Read the letter in the WSJ here.

To the editor:

Mr. Murray argues poverty is a symptom, not a cause, with wealthier parents likelier to possess and pass on self-discipline, determination and resilience. If so, then giving money to poor families should not improve children’s developmental outcomes. 

Yet evidence suggests otherwise. Modest increases in family income, through experimental anti-poverty studies or tax benefits, often lead to improved achievement and schooling outcomes for low-income children.

New neuroscience research suggests that childhood poverty may shape brain development, potentially explaining differences in subsequent cognitive skills and behavior. We and others have reported compelling links between family income and brain structure and function, in brain regions associated with skills important for academic success. By identifying how income affects early child development, we hope to inform anti-poverty policies that better support children’s well-being.

Mr. Murray concludes that “blaming inequality of academic outcomes on economic inequality” potentially punishes “children whose strengths do not lie in academics.” Yet it is this outlook that may be punitive. Poverty may be the greatest barrier to a child attaining his or her full academic potential.

Kimberly G. Noble, M.D., Ph.D.

Read about Kimberly Noble’s groundbreaking research: 
How Poverty Shapes the Brain: A study co-authored by TC's Kimberly Noble offers powerful new evidence

Published Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015


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