Investing in Children Now is Essential for Our Economic Future

Back • April 9, 2014 • Uncategorized

studentsTom Phillips’ recent op-ed in the Connecticut Mirror introduced another metaphor –“demographic  canyon” — to highlight the demographic changes looming throughout Connecticut.  Regardless of whether we refer to it as a tsunami, rift, or canyon, socioeconomic change is inevitable in the Land of Steady Habits.  Mr. Phillips is on target about the need to provide more jobs for unemployed youth to get them into the workforce pipeline – you can’t get a second job until you’ve had a first job.  We also have to invest in children early in their lives to ensure they have the opportunity for productive careers that grow the state’s economy.

The number of Connecticut residents with a job peaked in 2008 and has been declining ever since.  In fact the entire economy has been shrinking, with gross domestic product per capita declining by four percent between 2008 and 2012. To reverse the state’s shrinking economy and ensure future economic prosperity, we need to step up our investments in children now.  According to a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, investments that turn low-income children into middle‑class workers would result in an economic gain comparable to adding about $2.6 billion yearly in income to the state’s economy. Furthermore, the research finds that we would not have to wait long to see the benefits, and middle- and high-income workers would also benefit from increasing economic success among children from low-income households.

Where do we invest?  Children need to live in stable families in healthy surroundings.  This requires increasing the incomes of low-income parents and ensuring that children live in safe communities free of crime with affordable housing and with good schools.  Children must have access to quality early childhood education and healthcare regardless of where they live.  In addition, we must find alternative avenues to reduce the disproportionately high number of minority juveniles entering the juvenile justice system.

How much more will these investments in children cost?  If we eliminate childhood poverty then we will get $2.6 billion back every year in comparable earnings from the future workforce.   If we invest an additional $2.6 billion yearly and eliminate childhood poverty then it is an even trade-off.