A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that uses data from the Baby’s First Years study, put forth results that offer a strong argument for the implementation of basic or guaranteed income payments for families.
The study demonstrates that infants in households that receive monthly installments of guaranteed payments may benefit on a neurological level from the support.
Researchers randomly divided a group of 1,000 mothers and their infants into two groups. One of these groups received $333 per month and the other only $20 per month. Most of the mothers were from Black and Hispanic communities and had an average household income of around $20,000 annually.
After one year, the researchers measured the electroencephalography (a way to measure brain power through a number of electrical signals) of 435 of the infants. They discovered that babies whose families received the higher monthly payments showed more mid-and high-frequency brainpower than those whose families received less, though researchers noted that these differences were marginal. In the future, more studies will analyze other factors such as the household expenses for participating families, parental stress levels, and the mother’s involvement in the workforce and at home.
According to Kimberly Noble, a professor of neuroscience and education at Columbia University’s Teachers College, the study is still in its early days. “Looking at the data now would be a little bit like trying to understand the effect of college after just freshman year,” she explained, but she also added that “the fact that we are already seeing differences after one year of monthly unconditional cash support really does speak to the remarkable sensitivity of children’s brains to early experience.”
The study findings were released after the expanded child tax credit expired at the end of 2021 when lawmakers failed to pass a social policy bill that would have provided families with up to $300 per month per child. It also comes during the trying era of the Covid-19 pandemic which has caused a rise in child malnourishment along with a rise in demand at food banks across the nation.
Source study: Proceedings of the National Academy of Science – The impact of poverty reduction intervention on infant brain activity