Nature after Nurture
Last year, while doing our taxes, my husband and I were surprised to discover that we weren’t as poor as we thought we were. As lowly graduate students making a combined income of about $50,000 per year, I had assumed we were on the penny-pinching side of the national pay scale. But when I compared our income to the median income in the country, I found that we were sitting comfortably in the center. We had made it; we were officially smack-dab in the middle class. I thought it would feel different.
In the United States, nearly 25% of the population makes less than $25,000 per year. At this bottom level, a few households squeak by the poverty threshold, but just barely: in 2010 it’s estimated at just $22,314 for a family of four.
This year, 16 million children will be born into poverty (1 out of every 5 children born in the US). The lives of these children often follow a common stagnant storyline: poor nutrition, delayed mental and emotional development, academic deterioration, criminal activity, and frequently, early parenthood. As young parents, they are more likely to be unwed, more likely to drop out of high school, and more likely to stay impoverished. The cycle is vicious, and unrelenting. But is it possible to escape? How early is the influence of our environment engraved into the patterns of our development?
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(Originally published January 24, 2011)