New report applies behavioral science framework to the fight against intergenerational poverty

Poverty Interrupted initiative outlines groundbreaking new approaches to breaking the cycle of poverty in the US

New York, NY. –Behavioral design firm ideas42 today published a breakthrough report that has the potential to dramatically alter the poverty-fighting landscape in the US. The insights in the report, Poverty Interrupted: Applying Behavioral Science to the Context of Chronic Scarcity, could improve the lives hundreds of thousands of our nation’s poorest families, and restore opportunity for their children.

The economic mobility gap in the US is rapidly growing, and shows no sign of improvement. Today, more than 6 in 10 children born into the lowest income group will not earn enough as adults to enter the middle class. ideas42’s Poverty Interrupted initiative aims to change this. The radical venture aims to alter the life path of resource-scarce families by using insights from behavioral science to magnify the impact of anti-poverty efforts.

To achieve this, the white paper outlines a new perspective on poverty—as a unique context that leads to a predictable set of responses, rather than a sign of personal failure—and charts a path forward based on cutting-edge research in the behavioral sciences. This path begins with three design principles, and includes concrete recommendations that range from small nudges to the overhaul of existing support services. These principles can be tailored to fit the needs (and budgets) of a wide range of communities, organizations, and programs.

“Poverty is one of the most complex and seemingly intractable problems we face,” said Anthony Barrows, Vice President at ideas42 and head of the Poverty Interrupted initiative. “For years, we’ve stigmatized poverty, treating it as a personal shortcoming, or a failure of society. But if we understand the burden of living under chronic scarcity—and how much that distorts decision-making and cognition—we can help redesign programs and policies so that they empower and support hardworking families rather than trapping them in an unending cycle.”

By applying the low-cost, highly effective interventions that have become the hallmark of behavioral science to anti-poverty efforts, policymakers can make great strides in preventing parents’ struggles today from turning into their children’s struggles tomorrow.

Full text of the report and more background on the Poverty Interrupted initiative can be found at

ideas42 is a non-profit design firm that uses insights from behavioral science to create innovative solutions to complex social problems. We aim to achieve impact at scale by applying the latest research on human behavior to policy, program and product design. Our work involves educating decision makers and leaders about the power of behavioral science and how to apply it; improving existing products, policies, and programs; and inventing new products that draw on behavioral insights. We apply our expertise to a range of domains including consumer finance, education, economic opportunity, energy consumption and environmental conservation, healthcare, and criminal justice.