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Trial
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Last Published July 09, 2019 09:26 PM July 10, 2019 12:50 PM
Intervention (Public) We are randomly assigning 1,000 US low-income mothers and their newborns in four ethnically and geographically diverse metropolitan areas to either (1) an experimental group that receives $333 in cash payments each month ($4,000 each year) for each of the first 40 months of the children’s lives, with the first payments occurring shortly after the baby’s birth and this experimental condition extended to 40% of the participants, or (2) an active comparator group that receives much smaller payments ($20 per month) extended to 60% of participants. Based on our and others’ prior work, the $3,760 annual difference will be large enough to produce and detect meaningful differences in children’s cognitive development. Moreover, to understand how poverty reduction improves brain functioning, we have three follow-up waves of data collection conducted at child ages 12, 24 and 36 months. Cognitive and emotional development measures will be gathered at 12, 24, and 36 months of age. At the age-three lab visit we will administer validated, reliable and developmentally sensitive measures of language, memory, executive functioning and socioemotional skills. We will also collect direct measures of young children’s brain development at ages 1 and 3. We have secured the appropriate exemptions or approvals, ensuring that the mothers will not lose eligibility for public benefits as a result of our cash transfer. Our cash payments will be exempted from countable income in the determination of benefits from relevant programs, including TANF, SNAP, WIC, Medicaid, Housing Choice Vouchers, child care subsidies, and Head Start. We are randomly assigning 1,000 US low-income mothers and their newborns in four ethnically and geographically diverse metropolitan areas to either (1) an experimental group that receives $333 in cash payments each month ($4,000 each year) for each of the first 40 months of the children’s lives, with the first payments occurring shortly after the baby’s birth and this experimental condition offered to 40% of the participants, or (2) an active comparator group that receives much smaller payments ($20 per month) offered to 60% of participants. Based on our and others’ prior work, the $3,760 annual difference will be large enough to produce and detect meaningful differences in children’s cognitive development. Moreover, to understand how poverty reduction improves brain functioning, we have three follow-up waves of data collection conducted at child ages 12, 24 and 36 months. Cognitive and emotional development measures will be gathered at 12, 24, and 36 months of age. At the age-three lab visit we will administer validated, reliable and developmentally sensitive measures of language, memory, executive functioning and socioemotional skills. We will also collect direct measures of young children’s brain development at ages 1 and 3. The family process measures that we will gather are based on two theories of change surrounding the income supplements: that increased investment and reduced stress will facilitate children’s healthy development. We will obtain data measuring both of these pathways annually. Investment pathway: Additional resources enable parents to buy goods and services for their families and children that support cognitive development. These include higher quality housing, nutrition and non-parental child care; more cognitively stimulating home environments and learning opportunities outside of the home; and, by reducing or restructuring work hours, more parental time spent with children. Stress pathway: A second pathway is that additional economic resources may reduce parents’ own stress and improve their mental health. This may allow parents to devote more positive attention to their children, thus providing a more predictable family life, less conflicted relationships, and warmer and more responsive interactions. We have worked with state and local officials to ensure to the extent feasible that our cash gifts are not considered countable income for the purposes of determining benefit levels from social assistance programs.
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