Financial Constraints on Student Learning: An Analysis of How Financial Stress Influences Perception and Cognitive Function in Children

Simone Matecna : Economics, Peace & Conflict Studies

Mentor: Frederico Finan, Economics

Policy makers and developmental psychologists know that addressing the effects of poverty in adults often comes too late to be effective. Imagine a 30-year-old man named Sal who does not know whether or not he will be able to pay his rent or buy food for his family at the end of the month. It is not hard to understand why this uncertainty might cause Sal psychological stress on an ongoing basis. In fact, the ways in which financial stress impact mental health in adults have been well documented and studied.  However, what is less understood is how Sal's financial stress affects his four-year-old daughter's ability to pay attention. Simone will survey families and students in East Bay public schools and use quantitative methods to understand the relationship between a primary caregiver’s current financial situation and their child’s ability to focus. This research will become Simone’s Economics senior thesis.