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Many say that poverty is a factor of environment combined with numerous other areas. Can brain science be the answer to improving the everlasting war on poverty? Originally published in The Atlantic: How poverty changes the brain.

Economic Mobility Pathways, or EMPath, has built its whole service-delivery model around this science, which it described in its 2014 report, “Using Brain Science to Design New Pathways Out of Poverty.” The Boston nonprofit started out as Crittenton Women’s Union, a merger of two of the city’s oldest women-serving organizations, both of which focused on improving the economic self-sufficiency of families. It continues that work with a new name and a burgeoning focus on intergenerational mobility.

After years of coaching adults and watching those benefits trickle down to children, EMPath has brought children into the center of its model—offering a way out of intergenerational poverty with brain science.

Elisabeth Babcock, the president and CEO of EMPath, said people in poverty tend to get stuck in vicious cycles where stress leads to bad decision-making, compounding other problems and reinforcing the idea that they can’t improve their own lives.

“What we’re trying to do is create virtuous cycles where people take a step and they find out they can accomplish something that they might not have thought they could accomplish, and they feel better about themselves,” Babcock said.

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