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Poverty as a Threat to Adaptive Adequacy

Health & Psychology United States of America

Credit: Michael Tuszynski on Unsplash

Study Context

The proposed research examines a novel intervention strategy for ameliorating the cognitive consequences of poverty, with the potential of improving the mobility of individuals in socioeconomic distress but who have access to resources that could help them advance their financial and career success. Existing research has shown that the experience of poverty reduces mental bandwidth, and that affirming the self can help mitigate these negative effects. The proposed experiment extends this work by examining whether a dignity affirmation intervention increases psychosocial, health, and economic outcomes in the face of COVID-19 among a representative sample (N = 3,000) of U.S. households.

Study Design

To test this hypothesis, the research team embedded a randomized control trial as part of the American Voices Project’s qualitative and quantitative study of 5,000 families in a representative U.S. low-income sample. Participants first share their life stories, income and expenses, and how they make ends meet, respondents complete either a dignity affirmation intervention where they are prompted to reflect on cherished values and areas of hope for the future, or a neutral control exercise. Participants complete a survey of psychosocial measures and provide consent and contact information for administrative data linkage and recontact. The researchers then send participants monthly affirming text messages to extend the dignity affirmation intervention over time, and plan to send a one year follow up survey and link participants’ information with government income and employment data in order to measure the longitudinal psychological, health, and economic effects of the intervention, especially in the face of the COVID-19.

Results and Policy Lessons

Results forthcoming.


2020 – ongoing

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