The Science of Early Adversity
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When the RAND Corporation evaluated the initiative, it determined that the program would save between $1.26 and $5.70 for every $1 spent, with the higher savings from the higher-risk families, thanks to reduced spending on hospitals, incarceration, and cash assistance. And according to Timothy Bartik, an economist and author of Investing in Kids, every dollar that goes into the Nurse-Family Partnership will raise incomes for the New York population by $1.85 per dollar of costs, once you factor in the economic benefits of a more productive workforce—and a tax base that won’t be so strained picking up the tab for remediation and crime.
The science of early adversity, then, offers a blueprint for tackling the effects of poverty and neglect, one that is more precise and observable than any tools policy makers have ever had at their disposal. “The concept of disrupting brain circuitry is much more compelling than the concept that poverty is bad for your health,” says Jack Shonkoff, a Harvard pediatrician and chair of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. “It gives us a basis for developing new ideas, for going into policy areas, given what we know, and saying here are some new strategies worth trying.”
Jonathan Cohn is a senior editor at The New Republic. Excerpted from The New Republic (December 1, 2011), a Washington, D.C.–based magazine founded in 1914 to critically evaluate politics, foreign policy, and culture.
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