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Beth Babcock – Science Reshaping Poverty

Crittenton Women’s Union CEO Beth Babcock told us a story of hope at this year’s TEDxBeaconStreet.

The story is rooted in difficult facts. More than 46 million Americans live in poverty today. One in seven households were food insecure last year. These statistics persist in spite of a system working hard to counteract it. The war on poverty continues, but persistently high numbers of impoverished families continue to seem stuck.  Aid is offered in exchange for immediate returns on investment in a penny-wise and pound-foolish way that Beth explains after her talk. Thus the cycle continues.

In addition, the pathways out of poverty are more difficult than ever to navigate.  Increasingly, middle-class jobs that will support a family require some level of education after high school.  However, the negative effects of poverty — malnutrition, increased stress, fewer educational opportunities — are also correlated with changes in the brain – in fact, with the very “executive functions” that would help you successfully juggle the competing demands of holding down a job, taking care of a family, and working your way toward the degree that will secure your future.

Beth Babcock tells a story of breaking the cycle of poverty with new insight and approaches offered by brain science.  It turns out that the brain’s executive function can be developed, and adding this component to more traditional approaches is delivering astounding early outcomes, including high rates of educational success and home purchase.

The core fact, inspirational to all, is that the difficulty of poverty is solvable. Science will help us get there. Beth’s work continues to apply hard science to develop approaches that will help millions break the poverty cycle.