Wednesday, September 18, 2013
The New York Times is running a series about inequality called The Great Divide. One recent article by James Heckman, Nobel Laureate in Economics, is called Lifelines for Poor Children. Lifelines for Poor Children echoes Derek’s scholarship about the need to invest in early childhood development. Here is an excerpt:
Everyone knows that education boosts productivity and enlarges opportunities, so it is natural that proposals for reducing inequality emphasize effective education for all. But these proposals are too timid. They ignore a powerful body of research in the economics of human development that tells us which skills matter for producing successful lives. They ignore the role of families in producing the relevant skills They also ignore or play down the critical gap in skills between advantaged and disadvantaged children that emerges long before they enter school.
While education is a great equalizer of opportunity when done right, American policy is going about it all wrong: current programs don’t start early enough, nor do they produce the skills that matter most for personal and societal prosperity.
These established findings should lead to a major reorientation of policies for human development. Because skill begets skill, the opportunity for education should begin at birth — and not depend on the accident of birth.
The family into which a child is born plays a powerful role in determining lifetime opportunities. This is hardly news, but it bears repeating: some kids win the lottery at birth, far too many don’t — and most people have a hard time catching up over the rest of their lives. Children raised in disadvantaged environments are not only much less likely to succeed in school or in society, but they are also much less likely to be healthy adults. A variety of studies show that factors determined before the end of high school contribute to roughly half of lifetime earnings inequality. This is where our blind spot lies: success nominally attributed to the beneficial effects of education, especially graduating from college, is in truth largely a result of factors determined long before children even enter school.
Read more here.