Greg Duncan: Poverty and child development: Causation vs. correlation


Thursday, March 29, 2018, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies 9 Bow Street

Social Demography Seminar (SDS) presentation by Greg Duncan, PhD, Distinguished Professor, School of Education, University of California-Irvine.


Abstract: In the U.S., does growing up in poor household cause worse developmental outcomes for children? Hundreds of studies have documented statistical associations between family income status in childhood and a host of child, adolescent and adult outcomes. Many of these studies have used their correlational evidence to draw policy conclusions regarding the benefits of added family income for children, in particular children in families with incomes below the poverty line. Are these conclusions warranted? After a review of possible mechanisms linking poverty to negative childhood outcomes, I will summarize the evidence for income’s effects on children, paying particular attention to the strength of the evidence and the timing of economic deprivation. I will then describe an upcoming RCT that will provide causal evidence on the impacts of poverty on children’s early cognitive development and on the family processes the may mediate these impacts.