Higgins cited an article based on a August 2013 study by Princeton, Harvard and Warwick that showed the condition of poverty imposed a mental burden akin to losing 13 IQ points. This, Higgins said, is the equivalent of losing a night's sleep or chronic alcoholism in normal adults.
The typical diet of those who live in poverty also have an impact on the brain's ability to function.
Not enough protein–proteins being the building blocks of the body–and not enough fresh fruits and vegetables make it difficult to function, Higgins said.
"You can't live on mac n' cheese all the time–especially when it's not real cheese," Higgins said.
Poverty can also happen to people who have worked all their lives.
"People who live in poverty haven't necessarily always been in poverty," Higgins said.
If the person's income was not sufficient to save or a savings program was not offered by the employer, retirement can mean a significant loss of funds, Higgins said.
"People who only live on social security often live at or below the poverty level."
To afford medications, this means that some retired elderly live off of peanut butter sandwiches on day old bread and take half doses or even skip doses. If the medicine is taken for heart problems, for example, this means the organ fails faster, Higgins said.
"Survival is hard work," Higgins said. "People don't understand that [poverty] one of those things that is harder to get out of than it is to get into."