Thursday, January 27, 2022

No, Cash does not make Babies Smarter

The NY Times reports on a new study:
Cash Aid to Poor Mothers Increases Brain Activity in Babies, Study Finds

The research could have policy implications as President Biden pushes to revive his proposal to expand the child tax credit.

It says you can make babies smarter by just giving cash to the moms!

Astral Codex Ten is skeptical:

People love studies showing that some effect is visible on MRI, or EEG, or some other three letter acronym. It makes it feel real - you can literally see the effects! In the physical brain! ...

And finally, people want to discover a link between poverty and cognitive function so bad. Every few months, another study demonstrates that poverty decreases cognitive function, it's front page news everywhere, and then it turns out to be flawed. This recent analysis tried to replicate twenty poverty/cognition priming studies. 18/20 replications had lower effect sizes than in the original, and 16/20 had effect sizes statistically indistinguishable from zero.

Statistician Andrew Gelman does not believe it either.

Reason has a new video on N.Y. Can't Teach Kids To Read on $30,000 a Year. It attacks the common idea that schools are underfunded.

For a lot of things, you can get better results by paying more money. However, nobody has figured out how to make kids smarter by paying moms or schools more money.

Update: A chemistry professor is under investigation for some class break comments:

“I don’t think it’s racist [to say Black people do poorer on IQ tests than white people and that Asians score higher]. But that’s just a historical fact, for however many decades … that’s been a historical fact. You can get into all kinds of reasons for that certainly,” he said, according to a video of the lecture posted on YouTube. "So it is grey ... I think, what's racist and what's not.”

A student also posted a transcript to the UBC subreddit.

Sherman said people can “get into a long debate” over whether the difference in IQ test scores is the result of genetics or one’s environment, but still said his comments were facts.

He could have made the same point by saying income, instead of IQ tests.

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