STATEMENT: Kirsten Lodal’s Response to New York Times Article on Bandwidth Poverty

By LIFT on June 19, 2014

Categories: News, Our Work


We could decide today without any legislative action to design programs with humans at the center – programs that ease the mental and time burden of applying for services, paying bills, and saving money.” 

Washington, D.C. — In response to Maria Konnikova’s New York Times Opinionator post, No Money, No Time, Kirsten Lodal, founder and CEO of LIFT, released the following statement:

“This is an important discussion at a moment when we must innovate our programs to push forward in the next 50 years of the war on poverty. The concept of bandwidth poverty is one that must anchor our collective approach as we improve how we fight poverty in this country.

This conversation must be elevated because it pushes us away from the insidious “culture of poverty” dialogue that exclaims that the poor are bad people who make bad choices. And pushes us toward the truth that, as Sendhil Mullainathan said, “even if you’re poor, you have a brain with all the majesty of any human brain. It’s just subject to different pressures.”

While adequate income is necessary to achieve economic stability, it is not sufficient to disrupt the cycle of poverty.  The natural question becomes what solutions restore bandwidth for people? We are digging into this at LIFT with programs that mitigate the impact of toxic stress on people with low income. We start with the basics – treating people with dignity and respect the first time they walk into our offices. The sad truth is that this isn’t a priority in traditional social service settings, where individuals are treated like a number, their questions left unanswered as they are told to wait their turn. We’ve found that treating people with respect from the outset is an antidote to the unmanageable stress and bandwidth tax of poverty. When people lose their bandwidth, they stay trapped in the scarcity of the present – giving up on their hopes and dreams. But when individuals feel supported and respected, they are able to grow confidence, agency, and a sense of possibility for their future.

At LIFT, our approach to disrupting the cycle of poverty is grounded in the belief that all people, regardless of their income, need the same things to thrive in life. Of course, there are many factors that affect how our country moves the needle on poverty, but let’s start with the low hanging fruit. We could decide today without any legislative action to design programs with humans at the center – programs that ease the mental and time burden of applying for services, paying bills, and saving money.  The promise here is that we would actually be able to lift people out of poverty for good.”

To speak with Kirsten Lodal on this topic, contact Patience B. Peabody, Director of Communications at pbpeabody@liftcommunities.org or 202.560.2457.