It seems that a person’s social and economic background actually has a significant affect on their biological development, and can be seen through scientific means.
MIT Professor John Gabrieli led a team of researchers that used MRI scans to study the brains of 78 middle-school students, about half from low income families (qualifying for subsidized school lunches), and the other half from wealthy families. Results showed that certain regions of the brain are more developed among children raised in more privileged homes. Those findings were accentuated by the subjects’ performance results on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test, given to them by the researchers. As expected, the lower income children performed worse on average, only 57% reaching “proficiency” as compared with 91% of the wealthier kids.
Gabrieli’s team also noticed significant physical distinctions: wealthier students had thicker temporal and occipital lobes, the brain region responsible for vision and memory.
This study is significant as further evidence that environmental factors (finances, emotional support, and abuse, among other things) play an important role in brain development in children. “The gap in student achievement, as measured by test scores between low-income and high-income students, is a pervasive and longstanding phenomenon in American education, and indeed in education systems around the world,” said Gabrieli.