Education Opinion

Early Childhood and Inequality

By Sara Mead — December 07, 2012 1 min read
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The Washington Post‘s Dylan Matthews lists “10 Ways to Reduce Inequality Without Raising Tax Rates,” and guess what--early childhood education is one of them! Dylan cites the abundant and growing evidencethat high-quality early childhood education can boost cognitive and social skills for youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds, help mitigate for disparities in early learning experiences at home and the effects of childhood trauma, and improve long-term economic and life indicators for low-income and otherwise at-risk kids. All critical benefits that can help break the cycle of poverty and reduce inequality over the long run. But it’s also worth noting that we don’t have to wait until today’s kids grow up to reap the inequality-reducing benefits of early childhood investments. Investing in early childhood education can also help reduce inequality today by improving the jobs and earnings of early childhood workers--some of the lowest paid workers in our economy, despite the critical importance of the work they do. It can improve families’ economic prospects by enabling low-income and working class mothers to work, making work economically viable for lower-skilled mothers, and enabling them to increase their skills and earnings potential. And it can reduce the economic burden on the working and middle class by reducing the costs of preschool and childcare--currently a major economic burden for moderate-income families that pay for childcare. The biggest reason to invest in early childhood education is because doing so will allow more children to reach their potential, improving their education, work, and life outcomes; reducing poverty; and ultimately boosting long-term economic growth. But we shouldn’t forget that these programs can also help kids and their families in very real ways today.

The opinions expressed in Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.