Will money make kids smarter? (5×8 – 11/13/13)


There is a clear connection between poverty and academic achievement. But what would happen if you gave poor families real hard cash? The BBC probes the question: If you make a poor family richer, will their children’s chances of success rise accordingly?

A U.S. economics professor, Greg Duncan, is going to find out. He’s gotten funding for a study that will give a group of poor parents of very young children $4,000. A control group will get nothing, the BBC says.

Can raising income deliver a measurable change in family life and children’s progress? Will neuroscientists find a difference in cognitive development between those who receive the $4,000 and those who don’t?

“We want to see whether we can find a direct link between poverty reduction and brain development in very young children,” Prof Duncan says.

The idea of giving financial support to low-income families is well established – it underpins a range of family benefits, allowances and tax credits in many countries.

But what this study wants to discover is the specific impact of changing income in the years before school. Prof Duncan’s earlier research has suggested strong links between experiences in the early years and how adults fare in later life.

Related poverty: Obesity and poverty don’t always go together (Pew Research Center).


Between the scandal at the archdiocese and the brouhaha over a team’s racist nickname, never has the power of “You’re right, I’m sorry” been more obvious. Few people follow the obvious path, however, which is why there’s always work for good journalists, and why Chuck Klosterman is notable today for stating the obvious.

It started when Kari Wagner-Peck, who writes the blog, “A Typical Son,” wrote an open letter to the author and New York Times ethicist about his repeated use of the words “retarded” and “retard.”

Words like “gay” or “homo” were used regularly and with impunity in our society. Often to elicit a cheap laugh. Those words came to denote something or someone that is stupid, peculiar or undesirable. As gay rights flourished the majority of society realized they were not just using words – they were using words that hurt people. Words that devastated people.

Today people with cognitive disabilities and their allies are asking members of society to refrain from using the word “retarded” (along with all mutations of the word) for the same exact reasons. My question to you:

Is it ethical to contribute to the denigration of the vulnerable?

Of course, there’s only one reasonable response to the question and it’s not, “just get over it.” Give credit to Klosterman for understanding that when, after the social networking sites amplified Ms. Wagner-Peck’s letter, there was only one proper response: stop using the words.

Dear Ms. Wagner-Peck:

I have spent the last two days trying to figure out a way to properly address the issue you have raised on your web site. I’ve slowly concluded the best way is to just be as straightforward as possible: I was wrong. You are right.

I should not have used “retard” pejoratively. It was immature, hurtful, and thoughtless. I have no justification for my actions. I realize the books that contain those sentiments were published over 10 years ago, but that is no excuse; I was an adult when I wrote them and I knew what I was doing. I feel terrible about this and deeply embarrassed. I take full responsibility for my actions and understand why this matters so much to you. I’m truly sorry.

Feel free to re-post this message on your web site. I deserve the criticism I am receiving, and I want other people to know that I realize I was wrong. I would also like to donate $25,000 to whatever charity you feel is most critical in improving the lives of people with cognitive disabilities — …, …,* or any other organization you recommend. I have done something bad, so help me do something good.
Again, I apologize — and not just to you and your son, but to anyone else who was hurt by this.

– Chuck Klosterman

Related letters: Woman writes ‘thank you letter’ to burglars (BBC).


What are the odds this bill gets any support in the 2014 session of the Minnesota Legislature? A group of Concordia students plans to lobby lawmakers to repeal a provision that gives legislators immunity from driving-under-the-influence laws during a legislative session.

It’s a big joke to some lawmakers, a Concordia professor tells WCCO. “Everybody makes this a joke,” said Concordia University Political Science Professor Jayne Jones. “They have a get out of jail free card. It’s pretty appalling that my colleagues actually do this.”

The students also are pushing a law to crack down on out-of-state high school sports players playing on Minnesota teams, forcing local kids off the teams.


In July, the Dayton administration predicted property taxes would fall next year, owing to increasing state aid paid to cities, counties and townships. That’s not likely to happen, the West Central Tribune says. Quite the opposite, actually. An initial accounting, it reports, shows a large number of counties and cities are raising property taxes.

DFLers had predicted a $120 million drop in property taxes. That they appear to have been so wrong “could present political difficulty for Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and the Democratic-led Legislature,” the Associated Press’ Brian Bakst says.

Related economy: What’s Mine Is Yours (For A Price) In The Sharing Economy (NPR).

Why Is Employee Morale Declining? Blame the Improving Economy (Wired).


Many of us are heading to work today to accomplish great things for which we’ll be remembered forever. But the people who actually will be spend the day trying to balance a lawnmower on their chin. There is a life lesson here. Somewhere.

Bonus I: Devin Kohlman, 13, of Port Clinton, Ohio, knew he didn’t have long to live. But he wanted to go home for Christmas.

Knowing that, his town decorated itself early for Christmas. Its townspeople turned out to sing Christmas carols in October. The fire department brought in some snow for the sidewalks. The lights were strung on the trees.

The young man died Monday evening.

Bonus II: The Missouri Supreme Court is considering whether the Kansas City Royals can be held liable because its mascot, Sluggerrr, threw a hot dog into somebody’s eye. This could be the end of free stuff at games, sports fans.

Bonus III: WCCO Radio Newsman Attacked, Robbed On Way To Work (WCCO).

Should we embrace the free movement of labor?


Daily Circuit (9 a.m to 12 p.m.):  First hour: The rising cost of cancer drugs.

Second hour: Minnesota without the poverty.

Third hour: British journalist Simon Winchester dives into the history of his adopted homeland to explore the men who created the United States of America. Researching inventors, explorers and big thinkers. Winchester looks at what it took to make the country we know today.

MPR News Presents (12 p.m to 1 p.m.): An Intelligence Squared Debate: What a world of smarter mobility could look like?

The Takeaway  (1 p.m. to 2 p.m.): After years in the field, disaster management experts have developed a complex set of protocols to deploy help in the days and weeks after a major natural disaster like typhoon Haiyan.

All Things Considered (3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.) – The Minnesota Coalition of Lake Associations’ (COLA) proposal to the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council for money to support decontamination sites across the state, was approved.

At the same time an alternative aquatic invasive species proposal, written by LSOHC chair David Hartwell appeared on the list of approved projects. The council approved funding for the MnCOLA AIS proposal, but replaced the contents with the substantially different Hartwell proposal and the executive director admitted it’s the first time in LSOHC history a council member proposal has been substituted for a submitted proposal which seems to violate the legislation which set up LSOHC. MPR’s Dan Gunderson will have the story.

MPR’s Nikki Tundel reports the history of American Indians and Christianity is marked by cultural destruction and domination. Today, though, many Native Americans are devoted members of Christian churches. Tundel profiles All Saints Episcopal Indian Mission in Minneapolis, where congregants share their perspectives on being Indian and Christian.

Fifty bucks a month or less for health care coverage. Sounds like a deal, right? That’s what Obamacare is promising folks under 35. But just who qualifies for that cheap subsidized care and who doesn’t? NPR takes a look.

  • RE: More money = smarter kids?

    Of course there’s already plenty of evidence supporting this. Annie Lowrey pretty much nailed it in her piece for the most recent NYT Magazine (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/17/magazine/switzerlands-proposal-to-pay-people-for-being-alive.html):

    “In the mid-1970s, the tiny Canadian town of Dauphin ( the ‘garden capital of Manitoba’ ) acted as guinea pig for a grand experiment in social policy called ‘Mincome.’ For a short period of time, all the residents of the town received a guaranteed minimum income. About 1,000 poor families got monthly checks to supplement their earnings.

    “Evelyn Forget, a health economist at the University of Manitoba, has done some of the best research on the results. Some of her findings were obvious: Poverty disappeared. But others were more surprising: High-school completion rates went up; hospitalization rates went down. ‘If you have a social program like this, community values themselves start to change,’ Forget said.”

    But lets’ go ahead and run another study. The question is, when are we going to actually *act* on any of this data?

  • MrE85

    B3: Murph is a nice guy, and I’m glad he wasn’t seriously hurt. Some will do doubt use this incident to complain how unsafe downtown Minneapolis is, but this could have happened in the ‘burbs, too. Hope they catch the guy soon.

    • Already seeing the “if he only carried a gun” conversations.

      Also, it could never happen in my ‘burb. We can’t get a bus to anywhere at that hour.

      • MrE85

        Hearing his story gave me flashback when I was robbed in 1981, while managing a 3-screen movie theater in Indianapolis. I was more concerned about my employees (whom I couldn’t see) than my safety, until they ordered me into the storeroom at the end of the hall.
        For the first time in my life, I wondered …”am I going to die today?”

      • TJ Swift

        Right. Much better to be thrown to the ground, beaten and robbed than resort to anything as sketchy as a .45 auto.

        Besides, under current MN law, he would have had to keep running until he was caught even if he did have a pistol.

        • guest

          What if the two guys overpowered him and used his own gun on him? It sounds like he was on the ground before he even knew what happened.

          • Ma Barker

            Just to clarify, Steve Murphy knew what was going on well before the attack. He was suspicious of the suv when he first saw it and diverted his path to the bus stop. He explicitly said he knew he would be in trouble if he saw the suv again. Unfortunately, the criminals in the suv did find him again and that is when he was assaulted and mugged.

            There are many risks involved in carrying a gun, but this situation seems to be one where having a gun might have been useful. Steve Murphy was forewarned and he was attempting to avoid becoming a victim. If he had a gun and was reasonably proficient at using it, I think he probably wouldn’t have been assaulted.

            Not all situations are like this, though, and it’s easy to become a victim of your own gun if you lose control of the situation or never had control in the first place.

        • If only it were that simple. Pull a gun OR be beaten and robbed. But, of course, it’s not that simple.

          I think it’s tempting to say to a victim these days ‘if only you had a gun,’ but what are the odds in something like this? When a person is running to a bus stop, what would it take — timewise — to pull a gun.

          In flying, we train for emergencies but one thing that happens in real life emergencies is it takes the brain awhile to process what the heck is going on before your training kicks in.

          By contrast, I assume, if two guys are approaching you to beat and rob you, there’s a good chance they have a gun, know what’s going on, and are in “fire” mode.

          So if you’re playing the odds here, and your goal is to stay alive, what’s the best course of action?

          There’s one other thing. You know those stories of when a group of cops end up killing some suspect and it turns out they fire something like 100-200 rounds? Ever notice the number of shots that actually hit the person? They miss far more than they seem to hit, and these are people well trained in the scenario.

          It would be really interesting to be able to look at crimes that were stopped and determine the impact of a concealed weapon. But I believe the law is written in Minnesota such that it is illegal for the police to release such information, except to the legislature.

          Anyway, I’m not going to blame Murph for not getting himself killed. These sorts of things always sound like “well, look what she was wearing.”

          • Dave

            Exactly right, Bob. The “arm everyone” crowd never considers what would really happen in a robbery when two people are pointing guns at each other. They think every situation is like in the movies. My guess is that would not be pretty for the victim.

          • TJSwift

            Red herring, Bob. No one blamed Murphy…you’ve undercut you’re argument from the start. There are thousands of stories reported every year where firearms have been used successfully for self defense; if you’ve not seen any it’s because you’re not looking.

            This case in fact is a prime example of where a firearm might have helped. Murphy was alerted to the following van well ahead of the attack. Didn’t it circle the block?

          • You didn’t answer the questions I asked.

            As for whether people have successfully defended themselves or others, of course they have. But the law itself — risk v. reward — has been difficult to assess because it’s designed to be. That’s why law enforcement people can’t tell me — if I were to ask — whether a guy who shot up an office in Minneapolis had a permit for the gun he used.

            What I’ve seen — mostly elsewhere — is declarative sentences, “wouldn’t have happened if he’d had a gun.” I’m not sure that’s a definitive conclusion.

          • TJ Swift

            Every one is different, but I can draw my weapon in about 2 seconds; 1second if I’m prepared beforehand.

            I’ve had combat pistol training and encourage everyone who carries a weapon to do that. It’s absolutely true that shooting a stationary target has little to to with use in an emergency.
            I don’t blame Murphy, if he’s happy with the outcome I’m happy too.

            But I don’t play the odds; if you meet me, you can be 100% guaranteed I’m carrying a weapon.

        • KTN

          Like the guy in the Uptown area a couple of years ago who decided to use his firearm against a group of serial muggers. He got off 5 shots, hitting nobody, lucky for him, and all the innocent bystanders he was so proficient with his gun. I can see it now, him cowering pointing his gun at nobody, shooting wildly, not aiming, and violating the first rule of guns – know what the fu*k you are shooting at before you pull the trigger.

        • MrE85

          I can’t speak for WCCO-AM, but my employer frowns on packing heat to work. Murphy was running to catch a bus when robbed.

      • Jeff

        I wish we could instead see the “If only we had more people like Antoinette Tuff” conversations. She is the woman who, with WORDS, stopped a man in an Atlanta-area school from shooting anyone after he came into the school with an AK-47-style assault-rifle, 500 rounds of ammo and “nothing to live for.” Proof that the NRA was wrong when they said that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.


    • Jeff

      The attack happened around 5 miles away from downtown. The attack site is also less than 4 miles from 50th and France (in Edina). I hope nobody uses this to say how unsafe downtown Minneapolis!

      • My wife and I were leaving a Timberwolves game last year, following a guy on a cellphone who said to whomever he was talking to, ‘I’m in one of the most dangerous areas of Minneapolis.’

        We laughed and laughed and still make fun of it when we’re on our way to/from a Timberwolves game.

        In the meantime, though, they had all those muggings on Nicollet Mall and a recent shooting in a bar, prompting the police chief to do that “walk the beat to show we’re in charge” thing she does whenever there’s a high-profile shooting..

        Safe/Unsafe isn’t measurable. It’s an entirely emotional thing. The odds are you’re not going to get mugged in downtown Mpls.

        The odds are you’re not going to get mugged at 50th and Chicago, either.

        • KTN

          In the early 80’s I was mugged at gun point at the parking lots that are now the Target center. Was it unpleasant, sure, but it was not endemic of downtown – then or now

          This was not a matter of unsafe or safe, but is part of living in a large urban area. Not everyone is friendly, and some are evil, but man, to let fear drive you and where you go has to be draining.

  • John O.

    #4) An old pet peeve of mine: unless you actually sell your home and/or buy another home, your property tax may increase simply because the county-assessed market value/taxable market value increases on paper. Sure, you can appeal your valuation, but the amount of time and money one spends on home appraisals will probably be more than any actual tax relief you might get. Commercial/industrial property? That’s a whole different ballgame.

    • DavidG

      They could also go up, even if your valuation stays the same or drops, if there are other homes that dropped even more…

      • John O.

        Correct. It makes the whole property tax scheme all the more confusing and frustrating.

    • BJ

      Read about: California Proposition 13 (1978)

      Has caused no end of problems for School Funding ect, but no effort to repeal it has passed.

      • John O.

        Ah yes, the handiwork of the late Howard Jarvis. Who would vote today in favor of increasing their own property taxes?

  • TJ Swift

    Dflers predicted a $120 million drop in property taxes, e-pull tabs would pay for Zygi’s big gift, then cigarettes would pay for Zygi’s gift, 500,000 people would enroll in MNSure by the end of the year.

    It’s all unfolded exactly as informed, thinking people knew it would.

    • mason

      Don’t forget the claims that the forced unionization of daycare workers won’t lead to an increase in day care costs.

      • TJSwift


  • kevinfromminneapolis

    Who is Jones referring to as “my colleagues”? She’s not a member of the Legislature.

    • Guest

      I don’t think she has been an Instructor (much less Professor) at Concordia for a while, either.

      • kevinfromminneapolis

        And one more thing, I was at the Legislature much longer than her and never heard anyone joking about being able to drink and drive with no repercussions.

  • mason

    Giving people cash won’t magically make them want to be more involved their children’s education, and it won’t do anything to change the culture of ignorance that pervades lower-class society that I witnessed growing up where spending time learning, reading, doing homework ect, is something that only “losers” or “nerds” do.

    • jon

      I don’t think that cash is going to make people “want” anything that they didn’t before. What it can give them is the opportunity. Some one with $4k in the bank has the opportunity to take a day off work (unpaid) to go speak with teachers, they have the opportunity to spend more time with their kids helping with homework… they have the opportunity to hire a tutoring service for their child when they clearly need one…

      Also the goal isn’t smarter kids, or more schooled children, it’s more educated kids… there is a horrible tendency to confuse education with schooling and intelligence, Intelligent people might not be educated, and educated people might not be well schooled, and schooled people might not be intelligent.

    • mrsdanger

      There are plenty of families who want to do better, but can’t. Not every poor family out there is lazy and looking for a handout.
      The money could help kids go to school on a full stomach with clean clothes on and be better able to focus on school. I fully agree with Jon, it could give parents the option of being able to be more involved with their kids schooling, possible being able to get time away that doesn’t mean bills don’t get paid or less food ont he table.

  • Jeff

    #1 – Planet Money just did a podcast about this and included the results of a study that looks at what happens when you give money directly to poor people with no strings attached in Kenya. While more money was spent on education, the educational outcome showed little change. In other words, more money didn’t equal smarter kids. I did equal better fed kids and kids who were exposed to/victims of less domestic violence, so there were certainly benefits to the money. But smarter kids wasn’t one of them.

    Study results are here: http://web.mit.edu/joha/www/publications/Haushofer_Shapiro_Policy_Brief_UCT_2013.10.22.pdf

    Planet Money podcast here: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2013/11/08/243967328/episode-494-what-happens-when-you-just-give-money-to-poor-people

  • Dave

    Kind of an odd experiment. What exactly are the participants supposed to do with $4000? The article says there are no restrictions, but are they given any guidance? It also doesn’t explicitly say whether it’s $4000 per year for three years or $4000 total. Count me as skeptical that the money will be used 100% for the betterment of the children.

    And OK, let’s say the money improved the kids’ lives. Then what? Do we just hand out money to all poor families? It would be far more interesting if the children were placed in pre-schools (or whatever) with that money.

    • You’ll never get buy-in from the libertarian right (or me) with “placing” children anywhere. The best we can do is provide options and means and let the majority make good decisions.

      The reason why the libertarian right (the real, authentic ones, not the posers who are just pissed off old white guys venting their anger) is coming around to supporting basic guaranteed income/mincome is because it’s actually cheaper and shrinks government substantially.