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From traffic stops to affordable housing: 5 stories you may have missed this week

Apr 21, 2017

1. How poverty changes the brain | The Atlantic

We know living in poverty can have physical effects, like increased risk for asthma, obesity and hunger. But growing research suggests that the constant fear and stress experienced by many poor people actually rewires certain parts of the brain.

When a person lives in poverty, the limbic system is constantly sending fear and stress messages to the prefrontal cortex, which overloads its ability to solve problems, set goals, and complete tasks in the most efficient ways. The overload can be prompted by any number of things, including an overly stressful day at work or a family emergency. People in poverty, however, have the added burden of ever-present stress. They are constantly struggling to make ends meet and often bracing themselves against class bias that adds extra strain or even trauma to their daily lives. And the science is clear—when brain capacity is used up on these worries and fears, there simply isn’t as much bandwidth for other things.

2. If you're black in Grand Rapids, you're twice as likely to get pulled over | Michigan Radio

A study released this week shows black drivers in Grand Rapids are more likely to be pulled over by police. According to Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith:

Out of the 20 locations analyzed, 16 showed problematic disparities for black drivers, and five showed disparities for Hispanic drivers. A similar study in Grand Rapids in 2004 found the odds that a black driver was to be stopped by police was 1.3; a ratio that showed no statistical significance. The latest data from stops during 2015 show a ratio of 2.0; “That is a very large increase,” the study’s conclusion says. In “stark contrast," the report says, white motorists were “under stopped when compared to their presence in traffic” at 18 of the 20 intersections.

3. Down with 8 a.m classes: Undergrads learn better later in the day, study finds | NPR

The debate over school start times has occurred in districts across the country. And a recent study from researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno finds even college classes start too early in the morning for students' brains.

While there is no ideal start time for everyone, up to 83 percent of students could be at their best performance if colleges allowed them to choose their own ideal starting time for a regular six-hour day. The idea of students not working to their highest potential because of too-early timing is not a new phenomenon. Middle schools and high schools across the country have long been advised by researchers to start at later times for the sake of the students' education, and sometimes, even for the sake of their health.

4. Why is affordable housing so expensive? | CityLab

Building affordable housing isn’t very affordable. While per-unit construction costs are very high, there are very limited public funds available for construction, according to CityLab:

The case has been made that much publicly subsidized affordable housing costs significantly more to build than market-rate housing. Private developers are able to build new multi-family housing at far lower costs.

5. Can love close the achievement gap? | The Atlantic

The Boston Basics Initiative consists of five evidence-based parenting and care giving principles aimed at closing the achievement gap -- including "maximizing love."

Some parents are afraid, especially with toddler boys, that if they give their children too much affection when they are young, they will be weak. The Boston Basics tells parents that is simply untrue. This can be especially important when it comes to developing executive-function skills in children. Those who get a strong sense of safety and love from their parents are better equipped to control their own behavior later on and develop intentions they then follow through on, skills that are important for academic achievement.