A growing body of small-scale studies documents that the cognitive and brain development of low-income children differs from that of children in higher-income families. Higher family income is associated with better performance on assessments of children’s language, memory, executive function, and socioemotional functioning, with corresponding associations found in the neural structure and function of brain regions that support these skills.
At the same time, a large body of social science research has found disparities by income in measures of children’s achievement, school performance, and learning-related behaviors, such as attention and self-regulation.
Developmental scientists agree that poverty is especially likely to shape children’s early development because of the high plasticity and rapid growth of the brain during the first years of life. To test these findings, a rigorous study is needed to examine how providing income support to families may affect infants’ and toddlers’ brain function and development.