Welfare Schemes and Brain Development
- 15 Jul 2023
- 5 min read
Why in News?
Recently, a study published in the journal Nature has shed light on the impact of welfare schemes on brain development, particularly in children from low-income families.
- The study, based on brain scans of over 10,000 children aged 9-11 from 17 U.S. states, aimed to explore the relationship between poverty and brain development and the role of anti-poverty policies in mitigating its effects.
What are the Key Highlights of the Study?
- Poverty's Effect on Brain Development:
- Previous studies have consistently demonstrated that growing up in low-income families can adversely affect brain development and cognitive abilities.
- In 2015, three studies reported that human children and young adults growing up in low-income families had lower cortical volume and did relatively poorly in tests for academic performance. The cortex is the outer layer of the brain.
- Children from low-income families showed a higher risk of having a smaller hippocampus, a structure crucial for learning and memory.
- Impact of Anti-Poverty Policies:
- Generous anti-poverty policies were found to substantially lower the risk of a smaller hippocampus in children from low-income families.
- The size of the hippocampus correlated positively with family socioeconomic status.
- Researchers found a significant three-way interaction between family income, cost of living, and cash assistance programs in predicting hippocampal volume.
- In low-income households residing in high-cost-of-living states, and received generous cash benefits, their hippocampal volumes were, on average, 34% larger than those who lived in low-income households in states with a relatively higher cost of living and lower cash benefits.
- Welfare Schemes and Mitigating Biological Effects:
- Access to more financial resources through welfare schemes can shield families from chronic stressors associated with low income, potentially influencing hippocampal development.
- Anti-poverty policies can reduce stress levels and allow families to make decisions that lead to decreased stress, such as working fewer hours.
- Future Implications and Limitations:
- Longitudinal Study:
- The researchers plan to examine how policy changes since the data collection period have influenced the mental health and brain development trajectories of the participants.
- Monitoring the long-term impact of policy changes can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of anti-poverty measures.
- Addressing Socioeconomic Disparities:
- The study highlights the importance of investments in social safety net programs to address socioeconomic disparities in neurodevelopment.
- Such programs can potentially lower the costs associated with mental health, education, and economic challenges resulting from socioeconomic inequalities.
- Longitudinal Study:
What are the Major Poverty Alleviation Programs in India?
- Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP)
- Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana
- National Old Age Pension Scheme
- Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) 2005
- Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana - National Rural Livelihood Mission (DAY-NRLM)
- National Urban Livelihood Mission
- Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana
- Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana