Poverty and Cognitive Function
Chapter in NBER book The Economics of Poverty Traps (2019), Christopher B. Barrett, Michael R. Carter, and Jean-Paul Chavas, editors (p. 57 - 118)
This paper is a primer for economists interested in the relationship between poverty and cognitive function. We begin by discussing a set of underlying aspects of cognitive function relevant to economic decision-making – attention, inhibitory control, memory, and higher-order cognitive functions – including descriptions of validated tasks to measure each of these areas. Next, we review literature that investigates channels through which poverty might impact cognitive function and economic behavior, by discussing already existing knowledge as well as less well-researched areas that warrant further exploration. We then highlight ways in which the different aspects of cognitive function may impact economic outcomes, discussing both theoretical models and empirical evidence. Finally, we conclude with a discussion of open research questions and directions for future research.
Comment, John Hoddinott
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