Whether in politics, economics or religion, poverty is an important issue. Why are some rich and others, who seemed to have similar opportunities, poor? We can probably agree the answer is some combination of genetics and socialization, but what else do we know? According to an experiment done in the 1960's, patience is an incredible predictor of academic and financial success. A group of 4 year olds were given the option to eat a marshmallow right away or, if they waited for a 15 minutes, they could have two. Here's a hilariously entertaining video of the experiment redone. Fifteen years later the research showed that children waited the full 15 minutes had an SAT score 210 points higher than the kid who only waited 30 seconds:
Not only is education effected, but the children who decided not to delay satisfaction had a higher average BMI and more problems with drugs. This explains why some people forgo a present job to invest in education to get a higher paying future one. Or why some people spend their paycheck instead of saving it with interest. Everyone has a different rate at which they discount the future. For children, the future is so far away that the present dominates almost all choices. One of the things that makes us adults is our ability to pass up immediate gratification for future security. Or is it? Are the children who couldn't wait for the second marshmallow worse off or were they just fulfilling their preferences? Surely at some point we would all stop waiting. Could this be applied to the poor who live paycheck to paycheck? If so, is there any solution that doesn't deal with this inherent lack of foresight. And finally, if these differences aren't 100% genetic, shouldn't we teach patience in school?