Poverty has been around since the dawn of time, affecting those in its clutches dearly and for generations. Poverty controls more than when a person can pay the bills and what they can eat; it ties into genetics, addiction, development, prejudice, and incarceration rates.
In cases where poverty is prevalent, genes don’t always have the opportunity to express themselves, The impact of growing up impoverished overwhelms children’s genetic capacities indefinitely. Homelife is the biggest factor for children who live in poverty.
Those in upper-class homes are exposed to more mental stimulation and this allows their brain to build necessary neural paths for them to thrive in society.
I.Q. is relatively genetic too, meaning that well-off families are offered more opportunities to express their genetics to the full extent and will have a higher I.Q. Working-class families usually have a lower I.Q. by 12-21 points compared to their richer counterparts. The French adoption study (1994) featured sixty-five adopted children between the ages of four and six, most were abused, neglected, and existed in poor living conditions.
Their I.Q.’s averaged 77, a rather low score.
After they were adopted and stayed with their families for a near-decade, the children retook the I.Q. tests and all of them performed better. The amount they improved was directly related to the adopting family’s economic status. Children adopted by working-class families had average I.Q. scores of 85, those placed with middle-class families had average scores of 92. The average I.Q. scores of those placed in upper-class families rocketed to 98. Studies seem to conflict with each other when the idea of nature vs nurture comes into play.
This makes sense though if I.Q. depends partly on socioeconomic status. It’s a proven fact that more adversity, trauma, and neglect happen to those who are lower-class citizens; and that those who have faced numerous adversities have a lower understanding of consequences, so they may return to an activity even knowing the downfalls of it because they do not truly understand the consequences. Unfavorable conditions set up for unfavorable conclusions.
A telling example of the aforementioned subjects is the case of Freddie Gray. On August 16, 1989, Freddie Gray was born in the West Baltimore neighborhood, a lower-class area, and lived in a downtrodden house with peeling lead paint which is worrisome as lead paint was banned in 1978 by Congress, due to its cognitive effects, on I.Q and behavior, leading to deficits in attention and raised aggression.
Children who have been poisoned with lead are seven times more likely to drop out of school and six times more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system (Norton). Exposure to lead in early adolescence increases the chances of failing standardized third-grade testing. This is the critical point for most children, as they can get left behind more easily as this is the age they will begin to grasp new concepts that rely on an adept understanding of past learnings. Children that fail this test and don’t receive the help they need are likely to become high school dropouts and are at a higher risk of incarceration. Many Baltimore slumlords haven’t bothered to comply with the ban on lead paint, which has affected nearly 93,000 children.
This goes back over one hundred years ago when redlining, house discrimination, and segregation were prominent. Where Baltimorean lawyers and landlords took advantage of already disadvantaged African Americans and trapped them into a cycle of poverty and lead exposure. This was a product of racism and prejudice. The effects are still being felt to this day, with new studies coming out linking lead exposure to violence and mental disabilities. One study shows that even a small exposure to lead leaves permanent harrowing effects on the brain. The problem is that; despite these new studies coming out with alarming facts, most politicians believe the lead problem was solved long ago, unable to see past their ignorance and accept the fact that this has been an ongoing issue for years and will continue to be so until direct action is taken.
At a point direct action was being taken, compensation was being provided to those suffering from brain damage by lead exposure, Grays family was one of those planning to receive compensation.
Compensation consisted of monthly payments of $1,000 for 35 years. Immoral companies saw this as an opportunity, understanding that some clients didn’t even know how to read or grasp certain concepts they would swoop in on those and promise fast money as long as they signed a contract. This contract allowed them to take most of their settlement money and leave them a dismal amount. In 2013, Freddie Gray ended up selling $146,000 of his settlement for only $18,300. Companies like these have made millions.
On April 19, 2015, Freddie Gray, at twenty-five, died in a coma; this was preceded by an attack by multiple policemen, due to him maybe having an illegal switchblade on his person at the time. Gray’s death ignited the match for riots all over Baltimore – which resulted in 113 injured police officers, two deaths, and one burn victim. The riots took over the city, resulting in the looting of many pharmacies and stores. (Two cops were later found to be guilty of selling drugs taken from the lootings). The news coverage of Gray’s death and the riots that followed were abysmal. Too many left-out facts and exaggerations. As an arguing point, most would point to Grays’s track record. A sort of blind ignorance would follow. Their arguments, based on prejudice and arrogance, only served to stir the already boiling over the pot, causing even more of a disturbance in an already fragile state.
Freddie Gray’s death was arguably attributed to years of prejudice and racism. He got unlucky with his roll of the dice. Born into abject poverty and lead exposure, odds were stacked against him from the start. His life shows the effects of poverty and prejudice.
Poverty essentially controls every aspect of a person’s life especially if they were born into it. People in poverty will naturally live in more at-risk areas which have a large impact on their mental health and ability to break the cycle of poverty that they will most likely be stuck in for the rest of their lives. They are at high risk for disease and mental health issues.
There is a common belief that the poor deserve to be poor and that the cycle of poverty can so easily be broken with hard work and a savings account. I argue this is not true. When a child is born it will most likely be born into a financial state that will stay that way. It’s a roll of the dice that includes so many factors that it’s troublesome to think about. Understanding the pure implication of poverty itself makes life seem trivial and rigged.