I came across this video by The Economist titled “Why it’s harder to earn more than your parents | The Economist.” There were several interesting points, but one I thought was particularly interesting was a study on improving life outcomes for low-income students.
Compared to today, there was a lot more poverty In Kingston, Jamaica during the 1980s. Presumably, the kids growing up in these conditions weren’t expected to perform too well in school or have life outcomes much better than the ones they were raised in.
Sally Grantham McGregor noticed that many of these kids had no toys and basically just sat around. She brought homemade toys and games to the homes of these children. The idea was that games helped develop thinking and cognitive skills. At the time, the importance of play on cognitive development hadn’t been appreciated.
I’m not sure how frequently the children engaged in these games, or at what ages this intervention started, or how long it lasted, but the kids had made significant gains upon follow-up.
20 years later, these kids earned 25% more than their peers. 30 years later, they earned 43% more than their peers.
Since then, these methods have been replicated in other countries such as China and India.
Taken at face value, these seem like great findings. I also wonder if 25% and 43% higher incomes were enough to make a significant difference in their lives. It seems like they probably would, but we technically don’t know just based on what was reported.
This makes me wonder how widespread is the problem of lack of play in children. How scalable is this solution? What role does play have in developing and maintaining cognitive abilities as we age?
Ultimately, it seems like the lesson we should learn from this is to encourage play among children for better overall wellbeing and happiness.