5 x 8: Poverty vs. cocaine is no match


Which has a bigger influence on the development of a baby? The cocaine ingested in a mother’s womb, or the poverty he/she is born into? We now know the answer.

A 1989 study in Philadelphia found that nearly one in six newborns at city hospitals had mothers who tested positive for cocaine. That led investigators to begin the long-term study of 224 babies born over a three-year period. Those babies are now 21 to 24 years old.

Researchers figured they’d found out the extent of in-vitro cocaine on development but they found something else was far more influential: poverty, the Philadelphia Inquirer says.

As the children grew, the researchers did many evaluations to tease out environmental factors that could be affecting their development. On the upside, they found that children being raised in a nurturing home – measured by such factors as caregiver warmth and affection and language stimulation – were doing better than kids in a less nurturing home.

On the downside, they found that 81 percent of the children had seen someone arrested; 74 percent had heard gunshots; 35 percent had seen someone get shot; and 19 percent had seen a dead body outside – and the kids were only 7 years old at the time. Those children who reported a high exposure to violence were likelier to show signs of depression and anxiety and to have lower self-esteem.

More recently, the team did MRI scans on the participants’ brains. Some research has suggested that gestational cocaine exposure can affect brain development, especially the dopamine system, which in turn can harm cognitive function. An area of concern is “executive functioning,” a set of skills involved in planning, problem-solving, and working memory.

The investigators found one brain area linked to attention skills that differed between exposed and nonexposed children, but they could not find any clinically significant effect on behavioral tests of attention skills.

Drug use did not differ between the exposed and nonexposed participants as young adults. About 42 percent used marijuana and three tested positive for cocaine one time each.

The team has kept tabs on 110 of the 224 children originally in the study. Of the 110, two are dead – one shot in a bar and another in a drive-by shooting – three are in prison, six graduated from college, and six more are on track to graduate. There have been 60 children born to the 110 participants.

The years of tracking kids have led Hurt to a conclusion she didn’t see coming.

“Poverty is a more powerful influence on the outcome of inner-city children than gestational exposure to cocaine,” Hurt said.

(h/t: Vince Tuss)

Related: Why breast cancer kills more black women: They’re sicker (NBC)


It must be tough being “Big Blue,” the iconic old bridge in Hastings that for decades was the signature of the city. It’s been replaced now by “Big Terracotta,” a bigger, more convenient bridge for Highway 61.

“Big Blue” is in its last days. It’s being dismantled. The roadway on the Hastings side of the Mississippi is gone. And the last of the concrete on the bridge was stripped away. It’s naked to the sky.

Hastings is already smitten with the new bridge, as it should be. It’s safer and faster. And few people likely will miss Big Blue when it is gone for good. Soon.


What’s killing the skyway restaurants of Minneapolis? Owners of the skyway-level restaurants say it’s the food trucks on the streets below, WCCO reports. Peter’s Grill, German Hotdog and Taco John’s have closed recently.

“It’s all concentrated in one area and it’s an unfair playing field,” a pizza shop owner says.

The skyway restaurants want the trucks more regulated, and prevented from concentrating in one area.

Maybe people don’t want to eat pizza or chain-restaurant Mexican food.

Also: Why isn’t this a problem in Saint Paul?

Related: Some restaurants think outside the box. A happy hour for mutts (Duluth News Tribune)


Since the Legislature gave Minnesota counties permission to tack another $10 — $20 in 2018 — onto the cost of owning a car in the state, the counties can’t raise the “wheelage tax” fast enough. This week Renville County, Faribault County, and Douglas County added the tax. Hennepin and Ramsey added it last week.

“An 80-plus-year-old widow is paying the same amount to drive as a person who drives 80,000 [miles] a year. I don’t think it’s a fair tax, but it is a tax, not a user fee,” Faribault County Commissioner Bill Groskreutz said.

But a few counties have balked. Nicollet County officials said “no” yesterday.

It’s opponents say they worry the state will start shifting transportation funding to counties, while still collecting the state’s gas tax that was raised a few years ago as the answer to transportation funding. It didn’t work. Supporters say it doesn’t change the calculation for state transportation funding, however.

In arguing for Stearns County to raise the tax next week, the St. Cloud Times notes that the state is dropping transportation projects:

This area learned recently that the long-planned expansion of Interstate Highway 94 to six lanes between Rogers and St. Cloud won’t just be delayed a few more years; it is expected to be dropped from the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s list of planned improvements for the next 20 years.

Motorcycles, mopeds, trailers, semitrailers, collector vehicles and state owned vehicles are not subject to the wheelage tax.


The tragedy of kids being mistakenly left in hot cars has played out in Minnesota many times; too many times. Now, the New York Times reports, there’s a solution: A car seat that tells you when you’ve left a child behind.

The sensors in the seat could detect the presence of a child weighing 5 to 65 pounds. An electronic module sends alerts to a smartphone via Bluetooth. If the caretaker does not respond to the alert, the module will send e-mail and text messages to as many as 12 addresses or phone numbers that have been entered by the caretaker. These messages are delivered through the cellular network.

Of course, to buy one, you’d have to acknowledge that leaving a kid in a hot car is something you might do.

Bonus I: The joys of retirement. 70-year-old on a 4,285-mile cross-country bicycle trek (Fargo Forum).

Bonus II: Carlos Danger name generator: Get a name like Anthony Weiner’s alleged sexting pseudonym. (Slate Magazine)

Bonus III: Minnesota Moments from Brainerd. Hey, who knew this fishing thing was so darned easy?

Should Lynn Rogers be allowed to continue his work with Minnesota bears?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: President Obama’s speech on the economy.

Related: Obama returns focus to America’s struggling middle class (Pew Research Center)

Second hour: Hugh Aldersey-Williams, journalist and the author of numerous books including, most recently, “Anatomies: A Cultural History of the Human Body.”

Third hour: Benjamin Percy, author of two novels, including Red Moon and The Wilding as well as two books of short stories. He’s the writer-in-residence at St. Olaf.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, from the Aspen Ideas Festival.

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – A New 21st Century Cold War? | Internet Policing & The Battle for Porn in the U.K. | Braving Violence for the Sake of Journalism in Somalia

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The most expensive political contest in Minnesota next year is likely to be the race for U.S. Senate. First-term Democrat Al Franken is running for re-election and has two Republicans already competing to run against him. Franken has spent much of the past six years keeping a low profile but he’s now ramping up a campaign to compete against two Republicans who are taking different paths to beat him. Tom Scheck has a look at how the campaign is starting to shape up.

Dr. Bill Thomas was caring for nursing home patients when he had a revelation. Hed been treating the symptoms of their ailments, but not the cause: loneliness. That prompted a radical idea: replace nursing homes with so-called “Green House homes.” Thomas helped make them a reality and a success. NPR visits the Green House Project.

  • MrE85

    3) Good point about Saint Paul, although to be fair, Minneapolis usually has many more food trucks on the streets than her fairer sister. The idea that Peter’s Grill was closed by food truck competition seems farfetched. After all, it survived the Great Depression, a move, and many changes to downtown. I’ll bet another restaurant opens in the same spot and thrives.
    Bonus II: What, no “Cubical Guy?” Where’s the love for a radio news guy with a Minnesota connection becoming a Twitter sensation. The royal baby is already old news. Cubical Guy will live in the lore of New York City politics forever. Or not.

    • Kat S.

      Minneapolis has more food trucks, yes, but they’re also much more concentrated in one or two areas downtown, mostly along Marquette. On any given day, St. Paul will have a couple scattered around Kellogg, Rice Park, Mears Park, and up along John Ireland.

      The biggest difference I can see is really that St. Paul has multiple central parks and seating areas for them to congregate around that are in easy reach for office workers and have parking spaces for trucks. Also, St.Paul reinforced the nomadic behavior by sponsoring Food Truck Courts at different sites on different days.

      That said, St. Paul’s businesses also complain sometimes, especially the ones near the parks in question.

  • BReynolds33

    Skyway restaurant owners want to make it illegal for people to peaceably assemble and conduct legal business? I’m not sure that is going to go well for them.

  • Mitch

    Bonus II: Ignio Menace. Love that!

  • Christin

    1) Poverty seems to be central to every disparity we see – education, drugs, opportunity, transit, etc. I have read this article a couple of times through posts on Facebook…It confirms what I already suspected and have seen to be true in the children I know who were born to addicted mothers. And it reaffirms my opinion that rather than a war on drugs, we need to combat poverty. Of course, try convincing any politician of supporting policy that would do that in a meaningful way… Thank you for sharing this on 5×8.

  • joetron2030

    #5) The problem with Bluetooth as part of the solution is its range. Once you’re about 30 feet away (give or take depending on materials in walls, etc. between you and it), the BT signal won’t reach your smartphone.

    Also, how can the seat send messages w/o having an active wireless service plan tied to it? Makes it a tough sell if your new car seat requires a wireless data plan unless the manufacturer is going to eat the cost.