That’s the finding of an interesting, quick read in this AMs NYT.
It tells the results of a natural experiment wherein members of a North Carolina Cherokee tribe evenly split the profits from a new casino they ran. Fortunately, an epidemiologist (Jane Costello) had already been doing research on poverty impacts on kids in the area, both Cherokee children and kids from other rural households.
Not only did Costello find relatively quick-acting, positive results from the significant cash infusions:
…just four years after the supplements began, Professor Costello observed marked improvements among those who moved out of poverty. The frequency of behavioral problems declined by 40 percent, nearly reaching the risk of children who had never been poor. Already well-off Cherokee children, on the other hand, showed no improvement. The supplements seemed to benefit the poorest children most dramatically.
She also found, in follow-up work, that the benefits of the extra family income to the youngest, poorest children were still evident when the kids had aged into their early 20s.
My CBPP colleagues report on related findings here, both in terms of income receipt from anti-poverty programs, nutritional, and educational assistance.
What’s so interesting about these findings, particularly those regarding cash and nutritional assistance (versus, say, early childhood learning), is that even sympathetic poverty analysts have typically viewed these interventions as aiding immediate consumption, not as longer-term investments. This newer, longitudinal research that follows kids into adulthood is thus revealing lasting impacts that not only go beyond the very short relief from income insecurity, but have payoffs later in life both for grown children and for the larger society, which saves resources in a benefit/cost calculus.
The study reported in the NYT, however, appeared to be have left unexplored an important aspect of the natural experiment: one wonders if the folks on the other end of the “transfers”–losers in casinos, which is pretty much the same group as “customers in casinos”–got hurt in ways that the beneficiaries of the “experiment” got helped. Perhaps the losses were scattered among many but the gains were concentrated among a relative few. But there’s an incidence analysis missing here.