More than 100 New York City moms living below the poverty level will be given $12,000 with no strings attached as part of a new study measuring the effect of poverty on early-childhood development.
The study, named Baby’s First Years and partially funded by the city, is currently recruiting moms from maternity wards who will be handed up to $333 a month on pre-paid debit cards for the first three years of their baby’s life to see if having cash can affect the baby’s cognitive skills.
“The study really rests on what we’ve known for decades: growing up in poverty is associated with detrimental outcomes for children,” Columbia University researcher Dr. Kimberly Noble told The Post.
“But we don’t know if poverty is causing these outcomes.”
Previous research suggests a connection between poverty and brain function, with tots from wealthier families tending to have better language and memory skills.
Mothers will be able to choose how they spend the money and at the end of the three years, researchers will observe the cognitive development of toddlers and stress levels of moms.
NYU researcher Dr. Lisa Gennetian said the study — the bulk of which is being funded by wealthy private foundations — is “unprecedented” in scope and would help inform policy debate about cuts to social services.
“One in 5 children in America are living in poverty,” Gennetian said. “Hopefully we can provide evidence about income alone being a factor in helping them jump-start a life that is productive.”
Moms in New Orleans, Minneapolis and Omaha, Neb., also will participate in the study that will award about $5.8 million. In total, 1,000 moms will participate.
Of the 1,000 women, a control group of 600 moms will receive $20 monthly payments while the other 400 will receive the full $333.
Once a year during the course of the study, the researchers will visit each family in their home and do tests on the children to see how they are developing.
Mayor de Blasio’s Office of Economic Development has kicked in $500,000 to help fund the study, but is not considering enacting a baby bonus policy.
“We are always looking for innovative ways to fight income inequality and improve the lives of all New Yorkers because that’s the smart way to govern,” City Hall spokeswoman Laura Feyer said. “We look forward to seeing the results of the study.”
The study will be funded by a number of private foundations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Mark Zuckerberg’s Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
Baby’s First Years is a joint effort between Noble, Gennetian and fellow doctors Nathan Fox, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Katherine Magnuson and Greg Duncan.
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