in collaboration with Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity
Invest in early childhood education
From: Elizabeth P., Chapel Hill, NC
I'm a researcher at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, working on ways to close the achievement gap between children raised in poverty and other children. The results of one of the studies I work on, the Abecedarian Project, provides strong evidence that early childhood education in a high quality child care setting can have long lasting effects (we now have data through age 30) on the educational outcomes of these children, including more likely to go to college. Higher education is associated with higher economic outcomes -- thus a way to fight poverty!
Further, both neurological research and economic research demonstrate that the earlier in life we begin, the easier it is and the less expensive it is to achieve these results. The cost-benefits analysis of our study found that for every $1 spent, society got back $2.50 (from higher taxes paid on higher incomes because of better educational outcomes). Another long-term study of early educational intervention for children raised in poverty, the Perry Preschool Project, found for every $1 spent, over $12 was saved in reduced crime rates. So, my vote for tackling this problem: working with families and young children from birth. The science backs up this approach very clearly.