Usually, when people talk about early childhood programs, they talk about all the wonderful benefits for participants: better K-12 test skills, better adult earnings. And that’s all very important — but what I want to talk about is what preschool does for state economies.
If you invest in high-quality preschool, it develops the skills of your local workforce and, in turn, that higher-quality local workforce will be a key driver of creating jobs and creating higher earnings per capita in the local community.
If you look at the research on how much early childhood programs affect the educational attainment, wages, and skills of former participants in preschool as adults … and you take research on how much skills drive job creation, you will conclude that for every dollar invested in early childhood programs, the per capita earnings of state residents go up by $2.78. That’s a 3 to 1 return.
Now, you can get much higher returns — of up to 16 to 1 — if you include anti-crime benefits, if you include benefits to former preschool participants that moved to some other state, but there’s a good reason for focusing on these 3 dollars because this is salient and important to state legislators and state policymakers. And it’s the states who are going to have to act.
Now, one objection you often hear is, ‘Why should I pay more taxes to invest in other people’s children? What’s in it for me?’ And the trouble with that objection is it reflects a total misunderstanding of how much local economies involve everyone being interdependent. When we invest in other people’s children, and build up those skills, we increase the overall job growth of a metro area.
Ultimately, this is something we’re investing in now for the future. Are we willing, as Americans, or are we as a society still capable of making the political choice to sacrifice now by paying more taxes in order to improve the long-term future of not only our kids, but our community? That’s something that each and every citizen and voter needs to ask themselves. Is that something that you are still invested in, that you still believe in the notion of investment? That is the notion of investment. You sacrifice now for a return later.
Poverty isn’t one simple, easy-to-identify problem. It’s a catch-all term for droves of problems that stem from many sources. It’s daunting to think about solving such a sprawling issue, but there’s power in that too. Change needs to happen at so many levels that everyone from local communities to big governments can make a tangible difference.
Below, TEDx Talks with creative ideas about how to make a dent in poverty at three different levels — local, national, and global:
**Become the leaders of your own community: Boniface Mwangi at TEDxKibera
Boniface Mwangi calls on his community to demand representation and take charge of it’s own future. Kibera, the urban slum around Nairobi, is the largest in Africa. Despite the creativity of local innovators and entrepreneurs, infrastructure remains unsound and human rights abuses are widespread. At TEDxKibera, Boniface calls on his neighbors to demand justice and take action before outside sources forge their future for them.
**For money, insert human rights: Susan Randolph at TEDxUConn
What’s more important for a government hoping to improve the lives of its citizens: growing its economy or strengthening its social safety net? According to Susan Randolph, one might not work without the other. She measures a country’s human rights achievements, relative to its GDP per capita. She’s found that a country’s economic growth is unstable when it’s not coupled with policies that secure citizens access to the food, health, education, housing, work, and social security that’s within the country’s means. Reducing poverty is hardly just about money; it’s about guaranteeing citizens reasonable levels of dignity and stability, too.
**In defense of foreign aid: Joe Cerrell at TEDxASL
Wealthy countries like the US and UK have impressive aid programs, but many of their citizens view these as a colossal waste of money that ought to be spent solving the problems at home. What that argument usually misses, however, is that foreign aid makes up a near infinitesimal portion of most national budgets and that even those modest investments make a tremendous impact. Concerns about implementation notwithstanding, Cerrell makes the case that the spending is well worth the cost.