I was listening to the Freakonomics podcast, and they were talking about a study that was very interesting.
It was called Baby’s First Years. “The larger trial, the first direct poverty reduction evaluation in the United States to focus on early childhood, recruited 1,000 mothers with low incomes from postpartum wards in a dozen hospitals in four U.S. metropolitan areas: New Orleans, New York City, Omaha, and Minneapolis/St. Paul. Shortly after they gave birth, participating mothers were randomized to receive either a large monthly cash gift of $333/month or a nominal monthly cash gift of $20/month. The mothers will continue to receive the cash gifts, funded by charitable foundations, until their children are four years and four months old.” And they could spend the money however they chose.
The report goes on to explain, “Under the direction of lead author Sonya Troller-Renfree, postdoctoral research associate at Teachers College, Columbia University, brain activity was measured using electroencephalography (EEG), a technique in which a cap is placed on an infant’s head and used to record the brain’s electrical activity (known colloquially as “brainwaves”). Past research has linked high-frequency – that is, fast – brain activity to the development of thinking and learning. The study reports that infants whose mothers received $333/month had more high-frequency brain activity compared with infants whose mothers received $20/month.”
Three hundred dollars a month made a difference. The money may have been used for nutritious foods, activities, books… or maybe it just removed some of the stress the parents shouldered to make ends meet. But the end result was more brain activity linked to learning for babies in those families who received the higher amount of money.
As Nelson Mandela once said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
How are we helping our children? Affordable daycare, mental health resources, breakfast programs, government credits for families, supports for children with special needs?
Can corporations help when they have social responsibility on their agendas? Can politicians lobby for their constituents?
Governments increased some supports for families during the pandemic, but the needs don’t disappear season to season.
As John Wesley said, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
Our children are the future. What can we do to help them lead the way?