[…]Hurt organized a study of 224 near-term or full-term babies born at Einstein between 1989 and 1992 - half with mothers who used cocaine during pregnancy and half who were not exposed to the drug in utero. All the babies came from low-income families, and nearly all were African Americans.
"We went looking for the effects of cocaine," Hurt said. But after a time "we began to ask, ‘Was there something else going on?’ "
While the cocaine-exposed children and a group of nonexposed controls performed about the same on tests, both groups lagged on developmental and intellectual measures compared to the norm. Hurt and her team began to think the “something else” was poverty.
The years of tracking kids have led Hurt to a conclusion she didn’t see coming.
"Poverty is a more powerful influence on the outcome of inner-city children than gestational exposure to cocaine," Hurt said at her May lecture.