How Can We Do Better?

To predict how our nation will fare tomorrow we need only look at how our youngest children are doing today.

Many studies suggest that changes which improve family, caregiver and neighborhood circumstances in the earliest years of a child’s life have the best chance of putting a child on a strong developmental path—emotionally, intellectually, and socially. And that’s a win for us all because those investments can yield a healthier, safer, better educated, more prosperous and more equitable nation.

Yet the numbers show our children are falling behind. According to the United Nations’ Innocenti Report Card of 2013, U.S. child well-being ranks 26th. That’s worse than Slovakia, Estonia and Poland. How is it that only 40 years ago the U.S. was among the world leaders? What if the U.S. were the best place in the world for children to be born and raised?

We can, as a nation, better assure the conditions all young children need to thrive. The forces that make parenting so stressful and impede optimal child development aren’t etched in stone. Stagnant wages, lack of paid family leave and affordable, high-quality childcare, racial exclusion… all are the result of decisions we as a body politic have made and can make differently. The U.S. has a long history of social movements which have driven improvements in well-being.

Explore the articles and interactives and consider why, as Harvard behavioral economist Sendhil Mullainathan put it, some of the best parenting programs might have nothing to do with parenting at all.

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