As it turns out, the conditions that attend poverty—what a National Scientific Council report summarized as “overcrowding, noise, substandard housing, separation from parent(s), exposure to violence, family turmoil,” and other forms of extreme stress—can be toxic to the developing brain, just like drug or alcohol abuse.
If the psychological effects of oppression weren’t startling enough, we now have a neuroscientific window into the tragic consequences of poverty. Sadly, we’ll (meaning America in its most generalized, toxically mediated sense) still blame the poor for all their problems and ignore the conditions by which their problems are perpetuated and amplified (and also obscured and ignored).
Over the past decade, the scientific consensus has become clear: poverty perpetuates poverty, generation after generation, by acting on the brain.
Yes, there’s neuroplasticity, but if the input remains the same, and if it’s so intense early on in the brain’s development, we shouldn’t be surprised by the rigid results, and we should certainly start to read those results more fairly.