In the Media

What happens when the poor receive a stipend?

Findings from the Family Life Project, a large research study led by School of Education faculty member Lynne Vernon-Feagans, were cited by The New York Times in a story about the efficacy of supplementing the incomes of the poor.

The story, which appeared on the newspaper’s widely followed “Opinionator” blog, looked at what has happened in the town of Cherokee in Western North Carolina since new income has flowed into the region due to the casino that opened there in 1996. A Duke University researcher has tracked how new income has improved the lives of poor children there.

The story says that the findings supplement what Vernon-Feagans, the William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of Early Childhood, Intervention and Literacy, has been finding with her Family Life Project.

The story said: “The Family Life Project, now in its 11th year, has followed nearly 1,300 mostly poor rural children in North Carolina and Pennsylvania from birth. Scientists quantify maternal education, income and neighborhood safety, among other factors. The stressors work cumulatively, they’ve found. The more they bear down as a whole, the more parental nurturing and support, as measured by observers, declines.

“By age 3, measures of vocabulary, working memory and executive function show an inverse relationship with the stressors experienced by parents.”

The story says the findings point to conclusions that early-life poverty stresses are warping the bonds between children and caregivers that are important for healthy development.

The “Opinionator” story is available here.

Details about recent findings from Vernon-Feagans’s “Family Life Project” are available here.