Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function

Research article
cognitive function
behavioural economics
Mani, A., Mullainathan, S., Shafir, E., & Zhao, J. (2013). Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function. Science, 341(6149), 976-980.
Plain text icon LinkToFullText.txt62 bytes
Summary / Abstract: 

Notes: see Badger (2013) in this repository. She wrote an easy to understand summary of the research. In a nutshell - living in poverty decreases you ability to intelligently reason, because you have more pressing things to do than solving some stupid intelligence test. Full article can be found here: www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/.../mani_science_976.full.pdf

Abstract: The poor often behave in less capable ways, which can further perpetuate poverty. We hypothesize that poverty directly impedes cognitive function and present two studies that test this hypothesis. First, we experimentally induced thoughts about finances and found that this reduces cognitive performance among poor but not in well-off participants. Second, we examined the cognitive function of farmers over the planting cycle. We found that the same farmer shows diminished cognitive performance before harvest, when poor, as compared with after harvest, when rich. This cannot be explained by differences in time available, nutrition, or work effort. Nor can it be explained with stress: Although farmers do show more stress before harvest, that does not account for diminished cognitive performance. Instead, it appears that poverty itself reduces cognitive capacity. We suggest that this is because poverty-related concerns consume mental resources, leaving less for other tasks. These data provide a previously unexamined perspective and help explain a spectrum of behaviors among the poor. We discuss some implications for poverty policy.