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06/01/2016

Investing in the Early Years

With all the candidates who are hoping to become our next President, here is what I have heard, or more importantly, here is what I haven’t heard.  It is well understood that a successful economy must be a priority. Americans are struggling to create and be part of a successful new model for economic stability and growth for themselves and their families. This is particularly challenging because the new economic birth in America is taking place within a dramatic transformational churning of the world:

  1. Economic Globalization in which business and jobs flow across borders of countries and continents with no particular allegiance to the betterment of the community where they operate or where they move to.
  2. Speed of light technological advancements, including robots, in which work/labor in America has been transformed, and workers are not educated/trained for the new world of work.
  3. Weak wage growth over several decades for the majority of Americans.

How do we create a new economic model where more Americans can be economically successful? I have heard from the political candidates the idea of improving job opportunities for Americans by encouraging businesses to remain in this country; the corollary is proposed that we should increases taxes on foreign products (tariffs) that would be sold here in America so that these foreign made products could not take away American business and American jobs. I have also heard the idea that we need more college graduates. In other words, the idea that a college education is going to be more and more necessary for economic success in the future. To make this a reality, there is a proposal to make college free to increase access and prepare more college graduates.

However, and more importantly, what I haven’t heard is how we can help most Americans to be ready to take advantage of the changing world and not be passed over when adequate paying job opportunities emerge in America. While the best paying jobs will be for college graduates in the future, only a minority of workers will have a college degree. How do we help the majority of our workers who will still require strong education and training to be prepared for opportunities? By age 3 years, many children born in our society are already 6 months behind in their emotional and cognitive development. They are also experiencing high levels of toxic stress in their homes which alters their brain chemistry, undermines their capacity to learn, undermines their emotional well-being, and undermines their health for the rest of their life, including more heart attacks, cancer, addiction and depression. Just focusing on bringing back jobs to America or offering free college won’t overcome the educational, emotional, and brain development gap that is taking place when the child is an infant or toddler. Such gaps only grow wider as the child gets older.  The financial costs to our society dramatically increase by allowing the gaps to grow, and our chance of success at mitigating the gaps decreases as the child gets older. The strategic way to prepare Americans for jobs of the future and a successful economy is to invest in the infant, toddler, and their parent(s) in the early years!

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