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The Scandinavian Fantasy is an American opportunity to promote upward mobility.
Oct 04, 2016

New research by Professor Heckman and Rasmus Landerso of The Rockwool Foundation, The Scandinavian Fantasy: The Sources of Intergenerational Mobility in Denmark and U.S. is sure to disappoint both liberals and conservatives. Denmark’s welfare state is known for promoting economic equality through early childhood education and family supports. The United States is known for great opportunity; however, growing inequality is due in part to the lack of resources that low-income parents have to invest in the development of young children. Heckman and Landerso find that both countries miss critical opportunities to maximize upward mobility for disadvantaged children and families.

The Danish welfare state invests heavily in early childhood education and skills development to boost achievement. Unfortunately, achievement isn’t highly rewarded in the Danish economy due to policies that flatten wages and encourage social support. While the United States economy rewards education and skills, it misses the opportunity to elevate the disadvantaged by not investing enough in early childhood education to produce higher and more equal achievement.

Read the paper to find out how to move from fantasy to reality in advancing social mobility; heavily invest in quality early childhood education for disadvantaged children, sustain it with a quality education and reward skills in the marketplace with higher wages.

Investing in quality early childhood development for disadvantaged children from birth through age 5 will help prevent achievement deficits and produce better education, health, social and economic outcomes. Such investments will reduce the need for costly remediation and social spending while increasing the value, productivity and earning potential of individuals. In fact, every dollar invested in quality early childhood development for disadvantaged children produces a 7 percent to 10 percent return, per child, per year.
- Professor James Heckman
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