Poverty Lowers IQ, Even Temporarily, Study Finds

A new study linking poverty and lower IQ scores was released Thursday. The study finds that financial woes can lead to a drop in IQ score by as many as 13 points. Apparently, the stress of being poor can have a measurable effect on an individual’s mental abilities.

The study says that someone facing financial strain is more likely to have a decrease in problem solving skills and impulse control. This may help shed light on the cycle of poverty — it is a Catch-22 of sorts, as the study shows that an empty wallet may make it harder for a person to solve their financial problems.

According to Yahoo! News, one co-author of the study explains why poverty lowers IQ. Simply, it is because mental effort is being devoted to worrying about money, meaning less effort can be put toward other thought processes. The study compared the drop in cognitive ability to that of a person missing a night of sleep.

How was the study done? According to Phys, researchers came to their conclusions after surveying mall shoppers in New Jersey and farmers in India. In New Jersey, people were asked to consider what they would do if their car broke down and needed repairs. Some were told it would cost only $150 and others were told that it would cost $1,500. After this, the shoppers were given basic mental ability tests.

Interestingly, those who had lower incomes were found to perform worse on the tests when they were told repairs would be expensive. When the repairs were cheap, participants with low income did as well as those with high income.

A similar test in India asked farmers to consider a shortage of money. They too were found to have lowered IQ scores when the shortage was large.

The authors of the study suggest that their findings that poverty lowers IQ scores may show that financial assistance may not be enough for those with low incomes — other services, like free childcare, could be a great benefit.

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