Poverty More Damaging to Kids Than Crack Cocaine, Claims New Study
The rampant use of crack cocaine cut a swath across the U.S. in the late 1980s and early 90s, and while the use of crack has diminished over the years, the drug was used by hundreds of thousands of pregnant mothers, who then gave birth to “crack babies.” People worried that an entire generation would be emotionally and intellectually damaged by the drug.
Scientists have conducted a 25-year study on these drug-exposed children, comparing them to children who grew up similarly in every way but without drug exposure. The findings are surprising. Research indicates that growing up in a low-income household is actually far more damaging to kids than growing up being exposed to crack in utero.
Dr. Hallam Hurt, the neonatology chair at Philadelphia’s Albert Einstein Medical Center in 1989 when the study was launched, researched the long-term effects of crack exposure on 224 full-terms babies. When the study was launched, one out of every six mothers who gave birth in the city's hospitals tested positive for cocaine. Dr. Hurt told Gawker, "We were fully anticipating seeing a host of problems with these children, ranging from physical to developmental problems."
But according to Hurt, the real damaging culprit for the children was not crack, but poverty. In the study, the full-term babies were followed between the years 1998 and 1992. Half of the babies were exposed to cocaine through their mother, half were not. All of the babies, however, came from low-income families.
After two decades of check-ups and examinations, Hurt concluded that there are no significant differences between kids exposed to cocaine in utero and those who were not. A problem did exist, however, when comparing these low-income kids to children born to different income types. Overall, lower-income children had deficits in IQ scores, school readiness, and other intellectual and psychological measures.
According to Hurt, "Poverty is a more powerful influence on the outcome of inner-city children than gestational exposure to cocaine." That’s some pretty powerful stuff.