The Proven Way to Fight Income Inequality: Education

For progressives, the buzzy phrase of the moment is income inequality. President Obama plans to make it the focus of his upcoming State of the Union address after sermonizing about the issue in December. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made it the centerpiece of his campaign and the theme of his inauguration ceremony. Freshman Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren gained national celebrity because of her outspoken criticism of moneyed interests.

But as these politicians are invoking the issue for political gain, they’re avoiding one prescription that has proven to be a time-tested path to economic mobility—increasing access to quality education. When progressives discuss education, it frequently leads to the demand part of the equation. De Blasio proposed offering universal pre-K and after-school to city residents, while Obama has made it easier for students to obtain grants and loans to tackle the skyrocketing cost of a college education.

Left unmentioned are the efforts on the supply side—expanding school choice, improving teacher quality, and strengthening curriculum. In most poor, city neighborhoods, students are locked into failing schools, with few options for parents to turn to. Unions are invested in protecting an educational monopoly, fearing that increased competition could drag down salaries and threaten employment for less-than-qualified teachers. At the college level, one major culprit for rising tuition is that government is aggressively subsidizing tuition costs—spurring inflation—without demanding accountability from the universities benefiting. As the bar to attending a four-year college has been lowered, fewer students are graduating and more are exiting with calamitous debt, degree or no degree.

Full story of education and inequality at The Atlantic

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Get Ready to Talk About Early Childhood Education

Thursday night, in a speech to the annual conference of the American Economic Association in Philadelphia, Jim Heckman mentioned, in an aside, that an early childhood education initiative may show up in this year’s State of the Union address.

Heckman won a Nobel Prize in 2000. I followed up with his office and was cautioned that the aside was a conjecture, and not to treat Heckman as an administration source. But the idea of real money for pre-kindergarten does fit with what the president’s been saying. And it fits with what the profession of economics knows about how to spend the least money for the most return on economic development.

In December, President Obama gave a speech on economic mobility, pointing out that Americans are more willing to accept economic inequality because they believe in the American Dream. An economist would describe that dream as having “low intergenerational income elasticity,” a low likelihood that what your parents earn will determine what you earn. Problem is, the U.S. has a relatively high elasticity. We are more likely than citizens in most other developed countries to earn exactly what our parents do.

Full story of childhood education at Business Week

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First grade critical to child’s development, Duke study says

The difference between first and second grade is profound when it comes to children’s attention problems, according to a new study from Duke University.

First Grade is Critical to Child's DevelopmentThe study, which appears online in the November issue of the Journal of Attention Disorders, says the age at which attention problems emerge makes a critical difference in a child’s later academic performance.

When the problems emerged in first grade, children’s performance suffered for years afterward, Duke said. Those children scored lower than their peers on reading achievement scores after fifth grade. The Duke report said the poor performance occurred even if the attention problems improved after first grade.

But children who developed attention problems starting in second grade performed as well as their peers in later years.

Other studies have noted the link between early attention problems and academic achievement. But the new study focuses on the impact of attention problems that emerge in first grade versus those that emerge just a year later.

Full story critical first grade at WNCN

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Mom’s Depression Tied to Childhood Obesity

Mom's Depression Tied to Childhood ObesityIn low-income urban families, a mother’s depression is linked to childhood obesity and disengaged parenting.

“We know many mothers experience feelings of sadness and depression. Despite this awareness, many mothers really suffer in silence and don’t feel comfortable [talking to someone about their feelings],” said Dr. Rachel S. Gross, lead author of the study.

While most research shows a link between a mother’s feelings of depression and a child’s development and social health, “This was one of the first [studies] to look at younger children [and how depression] can impact the physical health of children,” she said.

Gross has spent most of her career working with low-income families in the Bronx in New York. There she has witnessed patients struggling with feelings of depression as well as children who are gaining weight more quickly than expected.

Full story of mom’s depression and childhood obesity at PsychCentral

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Sibling aggression, often dismissed, linked to poor mental health

Sibling Fights Can Lead to Mental Health Problems“It’s not fair!” “ “You’re not the boss of me.” “She hit me!” “He started it.”

Fights between siblings — from toy-snatching to clandestine whacks to being banished from the bedroom — are so common they’re often dismissed as simply part of growing up. Yet a new study from researchers at the University of New Hampshire finds that sibling aggression is associated with significantly worse mental health in children and adolescents. In some cases, effects of sibling aggression on mental health were the same as those of peer aggression.

“Even kids who reported just one instance had more mental health distress,” says Corinna Jenkins Tucker, associate professor of family studies at the University of New Hampshire and lead author of the research, published in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics. “Our study shows that sibling aggression is not benign for children and adolescents, regardless of how severe or frequent.”

The study, among the first to look at sibling aggression across a wide age and geographic range, is unique in its size and scope. Tucker and her co-authors from the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes against Children Research Center analyzed data from the center’s National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, a national sample of 3,599 children, ages one month through 17.

Full story of sibling aggression and mental health at Chronicle Newspaper

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City Seeking to Diversify Foster System

City Recruiting Gay and Lesbian Parents for Foster CareNew York City is launching a campaign to recruit gay and lesbian foster parents, part of a major push to expand the kinds of families who consider fostering and to find more welcoming homes for children who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.

The public ad campaign, set to roll out this week, features images of an interracial gay couple spending time with a young child. “Be the reason she has hope,” one of the ads reads. In another, a black woman is pictured alone with a white teenage boy. “Be the reason it gets better,” the message says.

How many of the nearly 13,000 children in New York City’s foster-care system identify as LGBTQ is unclear because the city does not keep such data. But, citing anecdotal evidence, researchers, child advocates and city officials insist that the children are disproportionately represented in the foster care system and say the need to find them supportive homes is great.

“When we decided to do this campaign we knew that LGBTQ young people are disproportionately represented in our foster care population, especially among our teens,” said Ronald Richter, commissioner of the Administration for Children’s Services, the city’s child welfare agency.

Full story of  diverse foster system at The Wall Street Journal

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Online Dish: Under Wraps; 12-yr-olds Can Order Condoms Free Online Without Parents Knowing

By Maggie Flecknoe

Children Ordering Condoms Online Without ParentsKids are getting more advanced and sexual at an earlier age. And now 12-year-olds can order free condoms online from The Condom Access Project’s (CAP) website:

The program, supported by the California Department of Public Health’s STD Control Branch and the nonprofit California Family Health Council, was launched this year, on the day of love, Valentine’s Day.

So here’s how it works. Teens between the ages of 12 and 19 can log onto this website and request 10 free condoms to be mailed to them in unmarked envelopes, along with lubricant and a brochure on safe sex, that way keeping it a secret from their parents.

Full story of children sexually active at 39Online