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The Cognitive Cost of Poverty

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the will-work-for-bandwidth dept.

The Almighty Buck 459

An anonymous reader writes "It's a common trope that most poor people are poor because they're lazy or just inherently bad with money. But a new study (abstract) makes a fascinating find: being poor actually reduces your cognitive capabilities when thinking about money. 'In a series of experiments run by researchers at Princeton, Harvard, and the University of Warwick, low-income people who were primed to think about financial problems performed poorly on a series of cognition tests, saddled with a mental load that was the equivalent of losing an entire night's sleep. Put another way, the condition of poverty imposed a mental burden akin to losing 13 IQ points, or comparable to the cognitive difference that's been observed between chronic alcoholics and normal adults.' This makes the difficulty in climbing out of poverty much easier to understand. The researchers also demonstrated causality by showing that thinking about a very small expense led to no impairment, while thinking about a very large expense did. They confirmed this by looking at a group of farmers in India who tend to receive most of their income at one time — immediately following their harvest. Shortly before that payment, when the farmers had very little money, their scores dropped as well."

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459 comments

FTFY (4, Informative)

ThePhilips (752041) | about a year ago | (#44724455)

It's a common trope in USA that most poor people are poor because they're lazy or just inherently bad with money.

FTFY.

Otherwise, I have seen plenty of rich people who were also pretty bad with money.

Re:FTFY (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724525)

But they must be good at something...if only at stealing.

Re:FTFY (5, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44724577)

But they must be good at something...if only at stealing.

Homeless people are good at things too, a lot of them. If you go out and talk to them, you'll find a lot of them have very good skills. I knew one guy who was good at construction (and management too, just not managing his own life). The guy could easily pull down $2000 a week, and yet half the time he was out on the streets. Why? Because he spent it all as fast as he got it. On booze, or horse races or in one particularly bad situation, on a woman. The money just burned a hole in his pocket.

If you talk to homeless people, you'll find that almost all of them have horrific money management skills, even though often it's because of psychological problems etc.

Re:FTFY (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year ago | (#44724825)

In some cases, they're singular talent is knowing which family to be born to.

Re:FTFY (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724839)

And in some cases their talent is an amazing amount of jealousy which comes out in passive-aggressive comments on Slashdot.

Re:FTFY (5, Insightful)

BonThomme (239873) | about a year ago | (#44725001)

Not really, if you've met both people who've inherited wealth and made it themselves, the difference is striking.

Re:FTFY (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724541)

And then it's only a common trope amongst the right-wing ultra wealthy crowd. Many of which were born into money.

Re:FTFY (1)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about a year ago | (#44724853)

It's a common thing I say, even though I'm poor by government spreadsheet standards (literally quite a way below the federal poverty level,) and I wasn't born into money either.

Does that make me right wing? I believe in the complete legalization of firearms, prostitution, drugs, and gambling. These are clearly things that the right supports, right?

To be honest, people like you who pigeonhole somebody of a particular view into either left or right are the reason I hate American politics and don't bother to vote in these stupid useless elections anymore. That, and the pathetic way that people rally behind clearly corrupt politicians to the point that they win a nobel prize just for being a cool dude with a big smile.

Re:FTFY (5, Interesting)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year ago | (#44725221)

And then it's only a common trope amongst the right-wing ultra wealthy crowd. Many of which were born into money.

Sorry, no. It's also a common trope amongst the right-wing wealthy-wannabe crowd. Including the ones who are pretty damned poor themselves and will only be rich, or even well-off in their dreams.

Been "rich". Been poor. Poor makes you feel like you're jammed inside a tin can with limited options. Even if you're poor with money in the bank, but unsure when you're going to become rich again.

Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy your way out of a lot of everyday problems. It can also offer a buffer in case the way out turned out to be a bust and you have to try something else. When you have money you can afford to make mistakes.

In short, I already knew this firsthand.

Re:FTFY (5, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#44724579)

I have seen plenty of rich people who were also pretty bad with money.

Rich people that inherit their money often manage it poorly. There is an old saying: The first generation earns a fortune, the second generation sits on it, the third generations squanders it. But rich people that got there on their own are pretty much by definition good with money.

My experience with poor people is that they don't see the connection between large and small amounts of money. They see the money they spend on a soda, and the money they need to send their kid to college as completely unrelated. They are unable to comprehend that by drinking water instead of three sodas a day, and putting the savings into a tax deferred education savings account, they can easily afford in-state tuition at a good university.

Re:FTFY (5, Insightful)

Barsteward (969998) | about a year ago | (#44724829)

when you are living on the bread line, you tend to have a more short term attitude to things. So if they get a bit more money than usual, they will enjoy it quickly as a treat against all the other times where they are having a hard time

Re:FTFY (1)

peragrin (659227) | about a year ago | (#44724873)

Take a look at income taxes. a lot of people pay more out of pocket expenses that way they know they get a little back at the end of the year instead of scrambling to come up with a huge payment at the end of the year.

Re:FTFY (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | about a year ago | (#44724905)

There is an old saying: The first generation earns a fortune, the second generation sits on it, the third generations squanders it.

One can only hope that this will prove true for Kim Jong-Un also.

Re:FTFY (4, Insightful)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about a year ago | (#44724941)

My experience with poor people is so varied, because I've seen them all. I live around poor people all the time. I don't rag on them for being poor, but I know why they are and I know that they are also undeserving of handouts. I've seen those who are very stingy with money, and I've seen those whose pockets have a bigger hole than an opening.

They all seem to have a few things in common though: They have little incentive to pull in an income, and/or they really don't understand the concept of investment.

One thing is clear though: Handing money to poor people isn't the answer. It never will be. If what I'm saying weren't true, then lottery winners would stay rich after getting all of that money. They don't though, that money eventually runs out, and usually within only a few years.

Re:FTFY (5, Informative)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#44724993)

They are unable to comprehend that by drinking water instead of three sodas a day, and putting the savings into a tax deferred education savings account, they can easily afford in-state tuition at a good university.

Or perhaps they comprehend it just fine, but they make a choice you disagree with: Like after working a 10 hour shift for $7.25 an hour, they would like to have at least a small creature comfort, so they buy a six pack of beer (or soda), instead of going home and enjoying tasteless and bland tap-water. The thing about being poor that everyone forgets is that everything that might relieve the boredom and stress of long hours for little reward costs something. It's easy to say "I'll save a few dollars a day" when you've got a fat paycheck -- but when you have nothing and you're looking to those couple of dollars leftover in your wallet, it's hard to say "You don't exist, go away". But psychology aside, there's still the troubling issue of your really, really bad math skills.

Let's analyze your example of "three sodas a day". For the 2012-2013 year, tuition costs for state residents at a community college averaged $8,655 [collegedata.com] across the country. We're going to ignore cost of living adjustments, peripheral expenses like books, lost wages, and everything else. We're going to take just that tuition number and that will be the cost of "easily afford" at a "good university".

The cost of a 'soda', which to give you the best case scenario, will be for one of the plastic 16 oz variety, which averages about $1.50 right now. So we're going to go with $4.50 per day being blown on soda. In 1,923 days -- about 5.25 years worth of not drinking soda per year of tuition.

Now, given the rate of inflation combined with the rate that tuition has been rising, it's safe to say that number will be higher. And when you consider that tuition is only perhaps 2/3rds of the fees you'll be paying... that number goes up even more.

Bottom line here is that your assertion that saving the equivalent of three sodas a day ($4.50) can buy someone a college education is possible, but absurd. You would spend half your working life waiting. In reality, you're going to have to save more to make it happen. Working a minimum wage job, you're only going to be pulling in about $36 a day (at best). Odds are good you'll be clearing even less.

You're asking someone for whom three sodas a day accounts for about 1/8th of their total personal income to save even more to make this do-able. You'd have to at least double, and probably triple, the savings rate, to get into college within a reasonable timeframe.

Frankly, when you take rent, utilities, and everything else into consideration... a minimum wage job simply cannot sustain that level of investment. Not unless you want to starve, rack up debt elsewhere (like late fees, bank overdraft fees, etc.) -- which will happen anyway when you're living paycheck by paycheck.

The bottom line here is that what these scientists is saying has nothing to do with the conclusions you and many others are reaching: Which is that you can "think" your way out of poverty, or that the problem can be resolved by simple mathematical ability. It is much bigger than that. All this study does is show that when financial resources become severely constrained, people are poor judges of how to best utilize those limited resources.

It provides no guidance on a viable strategy for emerging from that environment, and your flippant advice about simply not drinking soda is symptomatic of another, perhaps larger problem, that poor people face: Prejudice.

Re:FTFY (0)

taxman_10m (41083) | about a year ago | (#44725213)

College saving really should be a family affair. From the moment you are born, your parent or parents should be putting away something regularly. That something over the course of 18 years and coupled with one working themselves when they are of age should amount to a fair chunk of change.

Re:FTFY (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44725211)

I agree with most of what you're saying, but as a single parent that's not doing too bad and who likes soda, this is a poor example.

3 sodas a day is half of a 2L bottle which costs me 88 cents. Drinking water means a savings of 44 cents a day. That's $160/year, split across both of my kids. $80/year/kid doesn't come even close to paying for anything school related, even for younger kids. And investing such a small amount at todays' rates which are darn close to 0% won't do anything either.

Re:FTFY (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44724583)

Otherwise, I have seen plenty of rich people who were also pretty bad with money.

If they're truly bad, they won't be rich for long. A person who is really bad with money will take all his money and spend it as fast as his can. Think of lottery winners who lose it all within a few years, a depressingly common scenario.

Re:FTFY (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44724603)

Not necessarily true if mommy/daddy/grandparents are the source of the person's money.

Re:FTFY (1)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about a year ago | (#44724975)

As much as I'm sure you like to believe those in wealth don't deserve it, it can be proven otherwise in the majority of cases:

http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/news/research/joshua-rauh-what-forbes-400-list-says-about-american-wealth [stanford.edu]

Re:FTFY (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44725171)

As much as I'm sure you like to believe those in wealth don't deserve it

Since when have I believed that? FYI: you're a shit mind reader.

Re:FTFY (1)

BorisSkratchunkov (642046) | about a year ago | (#44724887)

Otherwise, I have seen plenty of rich people who were also pretty bad with money.

Namely Donald Trump. Who is revered by American society for... absolutely no good reason whatsoever.

Re:FTFY (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44725215)

I used to work as a mental health counselor. I have to agree with that. I would see people spend their money as fast as they got it. In many cases it was spent on drugs. I always remember the marshmallow experiment where children were made to wait in a room alone with a single marshmallow treat on a dish. If they waited until the researcher came back they were rewarded with 2 marshmallows. The children who waited had better impulse control. They became more successful adults. Kind of interesting. I left the counseling field after hearing many clients say to me, "I don't want to take on more hours or I might lose my disability income." After hearing that a couple hundred times after 4 years in the field I fled to web development where I make much more money and I don't have to listen to that excuse anymore.

Poor people are poor because they're lazy (1)

tuppe666 (904118) | about a year ago | (#44724465)

Common trope by rich people. Let them eat cake.

Re:Poor people are poor because they're lazy (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44724585)

And of which a large number of them are wealthy by birth not because they earned the money themselves. So they started off well ahead in economic advantage.

Re:Poor people are poor because they're lazy (1)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about a year ago | (#44724989)

Re:Poor people are poor because they're lazy (2)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44725167)

Forbes 400 hardly encompasses the entire wealthy class of America. So using it to disqualify my statement is rather stupid.

Re:Poor people are poor because they're lazy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724745)

Listen, pal. Having grown up poor as dirt, I can tell you the trope you are attributing to the rich is actually a trope of the middle class.

Re:Poor people are poor because they're lazy (1)

Barsteward (969998) | about a year ago | (#44724811)

and another trope by rich people is "pay peanuts and you get monkeys" rather than "pay millions and get all the blaggers/fast talkers".

Money is not an indicator of intelligence. There are too many rich con-artists out there.

Its far more stressful to be on the breadline day after day than it is to have a well paid so called high power job.

Re:Poor people are poor because they're lazy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44725245)

Money is not an indicator of intelligence. There are too many rich con-artists out there..

Con artists are smart. Dubios ethics, but they are not stupid.

The test results mentioned seems obvious to me. Poor people doing worse when solving financial problems? But of course - they have so little experience! The rich and middle classes manage their money all the time - in order to not end up poor. They have experience - the middle class tries to get a good deal on a car or a house, the rich tries to save money on a yacht purchase. The poor just pay the rent and buy food and is then broke. Real "financial problems" only have academic interest to them - it is something they never experience. All money immediately go to stay alive - there is no use for planning, setting up a budget, or invest in anything.

Re:Poor people are poor because they're lazy (2, Insightful)

killkillkill (884238) | about a year ago | (#44725017)

A common trope by rich people who worked their tails off and sacrificed a lot in the beginning, who are told that "their fair share" has to go to support people who spend their money on frivolous gratifications. I'm not rich yet, but I plan to be. I went into the SS office and half of the people there had out their Androids/iPhones. I am a guy who is pretty into tech, but have gone without a smart phone because the ridiculous price for a data plan isn't worth it for the instant gratification of checking my email between work and home. I go without to get ahead a bit only to be told I now have to subsidize those things for others. My wife and I spend $240 a month total on food, and that includes a couple date nights out a month. Getting fast food or whatever everyday would be so much easier, but I want to improve my place. The lesson in this: Be irresponsible and you get it now and later.

Though, most rich people still look past it and still care enough for humanity that even beyond their higher taxes they are also the most generous and donate a much high percentage to charity. Keep blaming rich people and buying beer and cigarettes (if you are poor) or big screen TVs and new cars (if you are middle class) and the greatest chance in the history of the world for social mobility will never be yours.

Re:Poor people are poor because they're lazy (3, Insightful)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year ago | (#44725251)

A common trope by rich people who worked their tails off and sacrificed a lot in the beginning, who are told that "their fair share" has to go to support people who spend their money on frivolous gratifications. I'm not rich yet, but I plan to be. I went into the SS office and half of the people there had out their Androids/iPhones. I am a guy who is pretty into tech, but have gone without a smart phone because the ridiculous price for a data plan isn't worth it for the instant gratification of checking my email between work and home. I go without to get ahead a bit only to be told I now have to subsidize those things for others. My wife and I spend $240 a month total on food, and that includes a couple date nights out a month. Getting fast food or whatever everyday would be so much easier, but I want to improve my place. The lesson in this: Be irresponsible and you get it now and later.

Though, most rich people still look past it and still care enough for humanity that even beyond their higher taxes they are also the most generous and donate a much high percentage to charity. Keep blaming rich people and buying beer and cigarettes (if you are poor) or big screen TVs and new cars (if you are middle class) and the greatest chance in the history of the world for social mobility will never be yours.

Keep planning. If you are lucky, life won't get in the way of that plan.

Strategy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724469)

Here's a brilliant strategy: 1) Encourage unwanted births by making birth control and abortion inaccessible / difficult. 2) Cut welfare programs so that these unwanted births go onto become improverished adults who create more impoverished children. 3) Cut taxes on the "jobs creators". 4) Reap the political contributions. 5) Rinse and repeat.

Re:Strategy (4, Informative)

Proudrooster (580120) | about a year ago | (#44724549)

Statistically, there are two pieces of data that determine success in public education:
* Socioeconomic Status of the Parents
* Highest Education Level Achieved by Parents

The researcher Andrew Maslow in 1943 basically drew the same conclusion in his research:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs [wikipedia.org]

His conclusion was is that if you aren't safe, fed, loved, and have self esteem that aren't going to be a problem solver.
Everything old is new again. I guess the new buzz words are "cognitive load" vs. "problem solver."

Re:Strategy (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724727)

Statistically, there are two pieces of data that determine success in public education:

The only things needed to succeed in public education are the ability to memorize information, the ability to spew said information back on tests, and a tiny, tiny bit of motivation; that's it. Success is public education can't be called much of a success.

more non traditional education is need as not all (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#44724919)

more non traditional education is need as not all people are a good fit for the memorize information, the ability to spew said information back on tests ideas as well as the overly theroy based learning vs more hands on learning.

Re:Strategy (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724843)

1943?

It's 2013. Intelligence is genetic. There are thousands of studies that prove it to be so.

You're white. You're a western european. You have this genetic predisposition to "equality" and hate the notion that genetics is everything.

Meanwhile, the Beijing Genomics Institute has 15,000 scientists researching which genetic markers lead to high intelligence.

In the not so distant future, your people will cease to exist all because of your weird religion. Do you think anyone in China believes in human equality?

No. They laugh at your stupidity.

Re:Strategy (1)

cookYourDog (3030961) | about a year ago | (#44725073)

Shhh!!!! Genetics in Western culture can only be used to explain obesity, addiction, and midday talk-show paternity results. Capability can in no way be linked to factors outside an individual's control - that may hurt feelings!

Re:Strategy (2, Interesting)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | about a year ago | (#44724827)

Whats you strategy? 1) Kill them while they're young 2) If they somehow survive, give them more welfare 3) Increase taxes on productive people to finance the ever-increasing welfare state 4) Greece, here we come

Re:Strategy (1, Insightful)

taxman_10m (41083) | about a year ago | (#44725231)

Birth control in the USA is inaccessible? Where? Out of wedlock pregnancies seem to be most common in inner cities which seem to me to be awash in (largely free) birth control options.

How is this news? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724505)

"It's a common trope that most poor people are poor because they're lazy or just inherently bad with money."

They're not lazy, they're not inherently bad with money, they're just stupid. Maybe they are poor because they are stupid? I mean this is all just correlation.

Re:How is this news? (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year ago | (#44724519)

Didn't bother reading the article, did you.

Having money problems? Are were you just born dumb?

Re:How is this news? (0)

cookYourDog (3030961) | about a year ago | (#44724563)

I guess he forgot that we're all special snowflakes, huh? There is no stupid, just "special in a different way", right? Or intelligence and wealth correlate - wait, that's politically incorrect - sorry!

Re:How is this news? (1)

Captain Hook (923766) | about a year ago | (#44724851)

Are were you just born dumb?

Are were you?

Re:How is this news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724763)

There's a difference between stupid and ignorant. Many poor people are ignorant about financial matters. Things as simple as a checking account are foreign concepts. ESPN's "Broke" documentary is a somewhat eye opening look into why people who earn so much money so frequently end up bankrupt 3-4 years after their playing careers. Things like rookies cashing their 6-figure signing bonuses at a check cashing store because that's the only way they know to turn a check into money you can spend.

If you're poor (1, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44724527)

If you're poor, it sucks for you, but you can pull yourself out of poverty, even with all the challenges. It's been done again and again, and there are support groups for you when you're really in trouble (project 90 has some amazing results with homeless drunks, for example [project90.org] ). If you're poor you shouldn't use a study like this as an excuse to stay poor. You can escape.

I really like project 90, which I linked to before, because they do a good job helping people overcome challenges like, and move on to a better life. If we're going to help poor people, we need to help them in a way that lifts them out of poverty, not in a way that keeps them trapped in a charity lifestyle.

Re:If you're poor (3, Insightful)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44724571)

If you're poor you shouldn't use a study like this as an excuse to stay poor.

Pretty much no one chooses to be or stay poor.

Re:If you're poor (2, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44724597)

Pretty much no one chooses to be or stay poor.

You'd be surprised. A lot of people just decide that the effort to get up every day and go to work just isn't worth the effort, so they go live on the streets. Really, talk to homeless people, it will be an eye-opener for you.

Re:If you're poor (5, Informative)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44724651)

I have worked with homeless people. Next to none of them were poor by choice. Many of them were poor and homeless due to being a couple of major causes:

1) Mental issues such as schizophrenia and kicked out of the institution they were receiving treatment from.
2) Addiction issues.
3) Some major bill came along that wiped out their money.

So if you want to claim that people are poor by choice you need to provide some evidence because all you have is an anecdote that doesn't match what I've ever seen.

Re:If you're poor (0, Troll)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44724835)

So if you want to claim that people are poor by choice you need to provide some evidence because all you have is an anecdote that doesn't match what I've ever seen.

Sure, and you can add to your list guys who had a romantic breakup that pushed them over the edge.

Look at the people who had major bills that wiped out all their money (along with a lot of the people who have addiction issues), that's where you find those people. Yeah, it sucks, but a lot of them decide in their minds that it was easier to be homeless than to keep fighting. So that's what they chose.

Also, don't think I'm looking down on them. I respect these people.

Re:If you're poor (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year ago | (#44725065)

Because, of course, major mental or physical illness is a lifestyle choice.

Re:If you're poor (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44725069)

Where in my post did I say major mental illness is a lifestyle choice?

Re:If you're poor (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44725189)

I respect these people.

Yeah, we respect you people, too.

Re:If you're poor (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44725195)

Yeah, it sucks, but a lot of them decide in their minds that it was easier to be homeless than to keep fighting.

You keep restating this without a single shred of evidence that this is a widely held belief amongst homeless people.

Re:If you're poor (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | about a year ago | (#44724893)

Depends what you mean by "choice". Of course nobody will choose poor if given a magical choice between being rich and being poor. But give them a choice of getting a minimum wage paying job, working long hours, giving up booze, drugs and cigarettes, living responsibly and saving small amounts of money on the side while looking for a course at a community college to improve their skills, studying at night while working during the day, then getting a better paying job and working hard at it. While you are right about mental issues being a major cause of homelessness, there are other issues involved and those include choices that they have made daily throughout their life, such as choosing an easy short term option (getting high) or hard (waking up early and going to a shitty job day after day).

Re:If you're poor (1)

lxs (131946) | about a year ago | (#44724671)

I suspect that there is a lot of rationalisation and saving face going on there.

Re:If you're poor (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44724697)

But it's what Rush Limbaugh told him! It must be true!

Re:If you're poor (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44724861)

Stop suspecting things, go talk to homeless people and find out. I'd be interested in seeing what you find out.

Re:If you're poor (4, Informative)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44724677)

And to add to my previous post:

For persons in families, the three most commonly cited causes, according to a 2008 U.S. Conference of Mayors study (pdf) are:
Lack of affordable housing
Poverty
Unemployment

For singles, the three most commonly cited causes of homelessness are:
Substance abuse
Lack of affordable housing
Mental illness

http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/526/homeless-facts.html [pbs.org]

Funny how none of the major causes are "chose to be poor".

Re:If you're poor (0)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44725129)

It's great that you help homeless people, I admire anyone who does it.

Go out and talk to them. Become friends with them. You aren't doing that now.

Re:If you're poor (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44725201)

I did it for years so please stop the condescension. Your anecdotes just don't match reality.

Re:If you're poor (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44725219)

I did it for years so please stop the condescension.

You didn't become their friends. I know.

Confusing mental illness with character. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724681)

You'd be surprised. A lot of people just decide that the effort to get up every day and go to work just isn't worth the effort, so they go live on the streets.

That sounds like a major depressive disorder or some other mental illness. What they need is treatment for that.

Project 90 is rehab for drunks and drug addicts - they are NOT for job skills training. It would be an inappropriate organization for those who only lack money or job skills and it would be the wrong avenue for someone with depression or some other mental disorder - and I'd be hesitant to recommend them if their issues were caused by substance abuse. And I wont get into the religious aspects of 12 Step programs or their efficacy.

Re:If you're poor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724801)

Bullshit. My mother is perfectly capable of holding a job and paying bills on time. She's extremely intelligent. Instead she rarely works, when she does it's part time, and tries to mooch off of family members. She came to "visit" me, and I had to evict her. She's living with her parents now. Her elderly, retired parents.

Re:If you're poor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44725057)

No shit? you are saying that there are all kinds of different reasons and lazyness is one of them? well colour me surprised. Its just that (as posted by someone elsewhere) lazyness is not at the top of the list. pretty much any reason you can think of will be on the list - since there is probably at least one person somewhere that is poor due to that reason.

Re:If you're poor (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44725203)

The plural of anecdote is not evidence.

Re:If you're poor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724891)

I deal with a lot of poor people and I see them making a lot of really really bad decisions. The most typical decisions I see are huge TV's and XBox setups with tons of games but the apartment looks like a disaster in the poorest neighborhoods in the Bronx NY. They chose to use their money to get expensive toys rather than pay for a better education/living conditions. Most of these people don't get up until noon or later and are often out in the street with their friends until after midnight drinking. This is not everyone (and not everyone stays in these neighborhoods) but a significant percentage of families in these neighborhoods, this is a typical life. I didn't grow up rich but I took out student loans to get an education and I didn't spend my money on booze and toys without first finding a decent job and a good place to live (where my neighbors typically aren't hanging out at night).

Re:If you're poor (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724909)

I left a high stress, mid 6 figure salary, bought a small hobby far out in the country and now live a very purposeful and rewarding life on less than $10k/year. I'm waiting for the basic income to happen so I can start expanding and buying more land.

Re:If you're poor (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | about a year ago | (#44724575)

I don't think the point of the study is to provide an excuse. It's much more useful as a way of hammering home to the idiots who claim poor people are just lazy that they're plain and simply wrong. There are reasons why poor people have a hard time getting out of that state of poverty, and it's got nothing to do with laziness.

The faster we can all move on from shaming and scorning poor people to actually helping them, the better.

Re:If you're poor (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44724617)

But that's communism! Get the fuck out you pinko bastard! *cocks shotgun*

Re:If you're poor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724673)

So now, instead of calling them lazy, we can point out that are scientifically proven to be stupid. Such an inprovement!

Re:If you're poor (0)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | about a year ago | (#44724769)

Causes of poverty:

1. Dropping out of high school
2. Having children before the age of 21 or outside marriage
3. Using drugs or committing other crimes and spending time in jail
4. Failure to get a job (even unskilled minimum wage) and stick with it and work hard

If you do not do any of those four things (and it is not too much to ask) you have only 2% chance of living in poverty in the USA.

Re:If you're poor (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724973)

5. Get hit by an accident or disease that is expensive to treat and then have your insurance company deny coverage.
6. Be convicted of a crime you didn't commit.
7. Be strong-armed by the prosecutor into accepting a plea deal on a crime you didn't commit.
8. Have a psychological condition or other condition that leaves you unable to work.

That's what I could think of in 2 minutes. I see your 2% and raise you the indisputable fact that 80% of statistics are made up.

Re:If you're poor (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | about a year ago | (#44724933)

The number of seats in Congress is very limited, so I highly suspect that the rest of the stupid and lazy people end up poor.

Re:If you're poor (2)

sydneyfong (410107) | about a year ago | (#44724685)

I've never experienced poverty before, but to claim that pulling oneself out of poverty is a merely matter of determination and hard work, trivializes the situations in some of the cases, IMHO.

It's almost a version of "let them eat cake", just that in your statement it is like "let them work harder". Could it be that for some people they have worked as hard as they could, and still live below the poverty line? The fact that some people have done it, doesn't mean everyone can.

Nothing against your optimism and particularly a pointer to venues that might help, it's just something I wanted to let out....

Re:If you're poor (2)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44724725)

It trivializes the situations in a great number of cases. Probably the vast majority. Being poor is a vicious cycle that is not easily broken. Despite what people like the GP will claim the rags to riches type people are a statistical anomaly.

Re:If you're poor (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44724807)

I've never experienced poverty before, but to claim that pulling oneself out of poverty is a merely matter of determination and hard work, trivializes the situations in some of the cases, IMHO.

From the perspective of a poor person, in almost all cases you have two choices: get yourself out of it, or remain poor. Government programs aren't going to get you out. It sucks, but so does life. Programs that help homeless people get off the street, like Project 90, do it by teaching people how to help themselves. But if you aren't willing to help yourself, then they will do nothing for you.

I'm sorry if that hurts your worldview, but you need to grow up.

So.....being poor is really bad for ones health? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724529)

Thanks science!

Couldn't it be said that.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724535)

When it comes to thinking about money, having a lower financial IQ is a cause for being poor?

Confounding variables (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724587)

Yet another easy explanation for "this is why you're poor." Remember the studies that conflate household income and test scores? [ucsd.edu] Or the ones that found that the more you read to your kids [berkeley.edu] the more vocabulary they'll have and the smarter they'll be? The list of things that the poor cannot provide for their children is long and getting longer, and that has a permanent influence on their future lives.

This article is just more evidence of the same. The poor do not get (and cannot afford) sound financial advice. But what good would it do them? They have effectively "lost at capitalism" already by working for someone else.

Study may have had incorrect conclusions (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724629)

From the article: "low-income people who were primed to think about financial problems performed poorly on a series of cognition tests..."

It's possible that they proved poor people are poor because they are inherently bad with money. I'm not saying it's true, but I don't think it's possible to rule it out.

Prasing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724639)

Nice your works. Go ahead.
www.dablip.com

Bless The Poor (2)

zenlessyank (748553) | about a year ago | (#44724661)

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than a rich man getting into heaven.

Re:Bless The Poor (1)

Barsteward (969998) | about a year ago | (#44724773)

explain that to all the tele-evangelists conning the gullible of of their money

Re:Bless The Poor (1)

zenlessyank (748553) | about a year ago | (#44724885)

I've tried. When you tell them about Jesus kicking over the money tables, they just get that dumbass look in their eyes. It's ok, though. He will come back a re-educate all the churches who have Satan sitting at their table. For the LOVE of money is the root of all evil.

"inherently bad with money" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724683)

"thinking about a very small expense led to no impairment, while thinking about a very large expense did"
Doesn't that mean they ARE inherently bad with money?

Re: "inherently bad with money" (1)

jsh1972 (1095519) | about a year ago | (#44724785)

No, it means they're preoccupied with what to them is a crippling expense, where to the rich person the expense is trifling and not worth consideration.

Re: "inherently bad with money" (1)

jsh1972 (1095519) | about a year ago | (#44724793)

No, it means they're preoccupied with what to them is a crippling expense, where to the rich person the expense is trifling and not worthy of consideration.

In other news... (2)

TheModelEskimo (968202) | about a year ago | (#44724771)

...children who ate a healthy breakfast did better at an IQ test than children who were beaten the same morning.

"Poverty makes you crazy" (5, Informative)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | about a year ago | (#44724779)

30 years ago I worked with a former social worker of long experience who had just changed jobs seeking a steadier paycheck. She said that poverty produced a constant stress over not feeling safe that basic needs would be met. Her view was that that constant stress often resulted in serious mental disfunction.

"Poverty makes you crazy...or at least stupid" was her standard rejoinder whenever we ran across someone who did something stupid with what little money they had.

From the Hierarchy of Needs, to my co-worker, to this new study - has anything changed? Not really. But it seems the relevant points need to be made over and over again because they just aren't getting through.

Re:"Poverty makes you crazy" (4, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | about a year ago | (#44724845)

I've heard of other stuff related to this. Children who grow up in an abusive or unstable home are basically in "fight or flight" mode all day long. They never get a chance to relax. A lot of these kids end up with symptoms similar to PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), which is what soldiers or other people living in warzones usually get.

Re:"Poverty makes you crazy" (4, Informative)

fermion (181285) | about a year ago | (#44725103)

First, I read this paper yesterday and for a piece of social science I was rather impressed with the methodology. I think they took care to cover the variables and carefully limit their conclusions to what could be inferred fro the experiment.

That said, the media reports, as normal, tend to focus on the headline value rather than the research. Although the paper does talk about poverty, it is in the context of having to live in poverty, not being poor. From the conclusion
The findings, in other words, are not about poor people, but about any people who find themselves poor.
The paper specifically talks about providing scaffolding to those who find themselves with funds, instead of just expecting them to act like an average person with enough money. The authors call the normal methods of intervention as incurring 'cognitive taxes' and say that things such as "Filling out long forms, preparing for a lengthy interview, deciphering new rules," should be minimized on the basis of this research. T

So I think that just saying poor people make poor financial decisions, or variations of that, is not really what is being concluded. We all make poor decisions, even if we are well off. I buy pints on Hagan Das for $4 that I really do not need with money I really do not have. Other people lease a BMW or go out and spend huge amounts on wine. Even if one has money today, it is hard to justify these extravagances for a purely rational point of view. A person spending every penny the make is certainly to some degree irrational no matter how much they make.

Rather, I think that the research can tell us what happens to people when they become fiscally stressed. People who are pepertually in this state are certain a prime concern, and we must take any effect on cognitive behavior into account, but anyone in financial straights are going to be effected as well. In the paper they use farmers as an example, and attempt to show that better decisions are made after a good harvest rather than later when thing are less abundant.

Here is how I would think about it using an example from the housing bubble. At first, when times were good, people bought hoses to live in or rented as they could. They paid their mortgages or rent and all was well. At time went on, and their friends were living better, and they felt poor, these people bought homes or bigger homes, often with adjustable rate, interest only, or buble mortgages. At some point they actually did become financially stressed, as property taxes went up, or repairs had to be made, or interests rate rose, and they begin to make truly poor decisions, such as borrowing equity from their homes to pay for vacations, or beer, or fancy dinners, or a new BMW.

Now clearly these people did not make these poor choices on their own. They were helped, even prodded. Which is, IMHO, the point. Perhaps we should not have policy that tend to push people into worse situations. It may not really the homeowners fault that they lost their house if cognitive function decreases with financial stress. It may not be students fault that they have big students loans if the school took advantage of, and ever promoted, the financial stress on the student or parents.

We all know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724837)

We all know that it is possible to go from a poor background to a middle class future. It just isn't likely. You have to be both "good" (at something) and lucky. If you start out well to do, you don't have to be lucky. The poor folks on the other hand - they aren't going to get anywhere by just being really good at something higher paying. They need the situational awareness to see the luck (on the off chance that it comes by; most folks never get the chance) and take it. Odds? Yeah, not so good.

Premise/conclusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724883)

After reading the article (not the study) I don't really understand how they justify their conclusion. The causality link is just not there. I don't see why you could not just conclude that poor people reach their cognitive cap earlier. In the "easy" scenario, both the "poor" and the moderately well off performed equally, however in the "hard" financial scenario the poor did worse. The conclusion they come to is poor people are so close to their cognitive cap DUE to poverty that they have inadequate bandwidth to get out. Why not conclude that people in poverty just have a lower cognitive cap period. I think that actually matches my experience. A lot of less well off people I have met are not "stupid" per se, but poor at managing many/complex tasks. Likewise, I've met people who I have felt were not particularly bright but were highly successful. Those people were typically very busy, and good at keeping a lot of things going at once.

commies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44724889)

They are poor because they don't have access to capital, by law, so they can't compete with those who do, the rich, who made the laws. You live in a communist country, everyone you ever voted for was a communist. You are a communist.

Cause Effect Cause (0)

xdor (1218206) | about a year ago | (#44725013)

So people who are poor are not smart about money. People who are smarter about money are not as poor.

The study fails to show that the mental load of poverty is separate from an innate lack of monetary reasoning in the individual. The study omits supporting evidence for its premise.

Re:Cause Effect Cause (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year ago | (#44725101)

I don't think it's going out too far on a limb to suggest you actually didn't read the article., the study and possibly not even the summary.

Same Story, New Data. (4, Interesting)

lionchild (581331) | about a year ago | (#44725043)

This isn't actually really new news for some folks in the US. Public Educators have know this sort of thing in the form of other studies for many years.

For example, studies have shown that people who are low-income, tend to favor larger quantities of food. Middle-class/income favor higher quality foods, and when it comes to upper-income/class, they are more interested in the quality of the presentation of food.

We have long since known that low-income families have higher risks for needing additional aid in learning, because they do carry a much heavier mental/emotional burden than other families. They're constantly worried about if they'll have enough money to put food on the table, to keep the lights on, or even pay the rent. If low-income families first pay rent, food, utilities and transportation, they are in a completely different mental/emotional position than if they're worrying about one of those basic areas not being covered.

Additional Coverage of the issue with links (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44725223)

The Yellow Press also covered this topic with some revealing links.
http://yellowpress.com/2013/08/27/payday-loans-prove-poor-people-are-dumb/

sh8it?! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44725241)

nearly two years and exec0tes a
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