2013 Research Prize

Long-term consequences: Poverty in early childhood leads to diminished prospects later in life

For 25 years, Duncan played a major role in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), one of the world’s longest-running and most influential studies of human development. The study has been interviewing a representative sample of American families and their children since 1968, following children into the fourth decade of their lives. The study’s data have allowed Duncan and his colleagues to find correlations between income in early life and life circumstances in adulthood: Children from poor families are less likely to finish school, and they work and earn less than their more fortunate peers. Duncan has also shown that low family income has a stronger association with circumstances in adulthood when it occurs during the first five years of life than when it occurs later on.
“Receiving the Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize is a great honor, and it comes at a perfect time,” Duncan says. He is currently planning a new interdisciplinary study to be undertaken in collaboration with leading neuroscientists and developmental psychologists. The study will recruit a random sample of 1,000 young, low-income mothers of newborns. One group will receive a cash payment of $4,000 during each of the first three years of their children’s lives, while a control group will receive much smaller payments. “We want to see whether we can find a direct link between poverty reduction and brain development in very young children.”

For his research on the long-term consequences of poverty in early childhood Greg J. Duncan was awarded the Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize 2013 at a celebratory award ceremony at the University of Zurich on December 6, 2013.