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Place-based Initiatives

Megan Carolan, Associate Director for Policy Research

“Location, location, location” – once the watchword of real estate, this is now a driving force behind early childhood development and the availability of support services. Most systems for children exist outside of the traditional, district-based K-12 education systems, and yet families are quickly learning that supports to start children on the right path for life depend on the state, city, and even neighborhood in which they live. This geographic diversity provides a rich laboratory for meeting the specific needs of population, but must be done in a way that preserves equity for all children. MeganCarolan

Geography has a huge impact on intergenerational mobility because of the strengths and challenges each city and neighborhood presents. Research shows that where a child grows up has a huge impact on the likelihood of moving into a higher income quintile in their lifetime. Harvard sociologist, Raj Chetty, et al. identified several factors which make a “high mobility” neighborhood: “less residential segregation, less income inequality, better primary schools, greater social capital, and greater family stability.” These characteristics, of course, do not develop through luck of the draw, but rather can be achieved by intentional commitment to the supports families need to fully develop their capacities.

In the world of early childhood education, many cities have recently stepped up to launch high-profile initiatives beyond what their states may already provide, including Boston, San Antonio, and Seattle. Each of these cities have developed a stable funding source separate from how their state programs are funded, developed program standards, and worked to recruit families who can most benefit from the program. Many cities have also embraced a role in child development beyond the classroom through the growth of so-called “place-based initiatives” which focus on multiple aspects of a family’s life to improve well-being and stability. These focus areas can include education, health and wellness, safety, and housing, among other issues. ICS is currently work with the City of Spartanburg to determine whether Pay for Success financing can provide a mechanism for funding a suite of early childhood services to contribute to this type of initiative, in addition to Spartanburg’s current place-based work in its Northside neighborhood. South Carolina is also home to place-based initiatives Tri-County Cradle to Career in six Lowcountry communities. The future is bright for place-based initiatives which create partnerships in the community and place families at the center.

Throughout this week, ICS staff members, based on their expertise and passions, will present their forecasts of upcoming trends in the field and future research and policy considerations. We invite you to share your reflections on these ideas, to learn more about our vision for 2016 and beyond in our annual report, and to check out our new video.

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