Want Equality? Occupy Preschool

Invest in early education to prevent wide disparity
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 20, 2011 1:55 PM CDT
Children play in a special section set-aside for the organization "Parents for Occupy Wall Street" of the "Occupy Wall Street" protests, in Zuccotti Park in New York, on Monday, October 10, 2011.   (AP Photo/Andrew Burton)

(Newser) – Occupy Wall Street protesters are raging against inequality, proposing new taxes and regulations to get there. But Nicholas Kristof thinks he knows “the single step that would do the most to reduce inequality,” he writes in the New York Times: expand early childhood education. “That will seem naïve and bizarre to many … who think the first step is to throw a few bankers in prison,” he admits. But “a bigger source of structural inequality is that many young people never get the skills to compete.”

Even before kindergarten poor kids perform worse than wealthy ones, but studies indicate that early education can change that and lead to drastically better life outcomes. One economist estimates that the programs not only pay for themselves, but provide a 7% rate of return—which, Kristof notes, is “better than many investments on Wall Street.” The choice then, is this: “We can pay for prisons, or we can pay, less, for early childhood education to help build a fairer and more equitable nation.”

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