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early childhood

user: bradbrundage / flickr

For the past four weeks, I haven't been much help to my coworkers here at State of Opportunity. I've been unresponsive to emails. I've contributed nothing to the website. I haven't turned in any stories for radio. I haven't even thought about it. And yet, crazy as it sounds, I've been paid the whole time. 

I wasn't on vacation. I was on paternity leave. My wife and I had our second child exactly one month ago today. Since then, I've provided absolutely nothing of value to my employer. And, even now, I'm only working part time. 

Paid paternity leave, beyond one or two weeks, is crazy-rare in the United States. While federal law requires employers to offer 12 weeks of leave to both mothers and fathers after the birth of a child, the law doesn't say that parents have to be paid for their time away. Some employers, and some state laws, make it so more mothers can be paid during an extended leave after the birth of a child.  Estimates are hard to come by, but some data seems to indicate that less than 10 percent of new fathers take more than a few weeks of leave when their children are born

In a country where paid maternity leave is far from a given, paid paternity leave seems like quite a luxury. But here are three reasons why it should be more common:

Do poor kids get to have a childhood?

Jul 26, 2013
Lewis Hine / Library of Congress: National Child Labor Committee Collection

We all know the sequence of life stages: Infant. Toddler. Child. Adolescent. Young Adult. Adult… But historically we haven’t always marched through these stages. We are adding steps like ‘adolescence’ and ‘young adult.’

‘Childhood’ in general is also a relatively new concept. One hundred and fifty years ago, childhood was not a distinct life phase – kids were simply seen as ‘little adults.’ This intrigued me, so I delved into the historical and academic literature. I was particularly curious about how our evolving notion of childhood relates to issues of wealth and poverty.

Critics question early education studies

May 23, 2013
einstein quote on research
astronomy_blog / Flickr

We love research. Studies grounded in empirical research drive a lot of what we do and who we talk to for State of Opportunity reporting. Yet, if we take a step back, maybe we should periodically reflect on the actual practice of research, in addition to intent and outcomes.

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University

There has been an explosion of research over the past decade that shows how important the first few years of a child’s life are in terms of brain development. To help us make sense of how those early experience can shape a child’s brain, we called up Dr. Jack Shonkoff, director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.

A new report by Bridge Magazine estimates 30,000 Michigan preschoolers are eligible for public preschool, and aren't there. Bridge Magazine got to their numbers by finding out how many kids are eligible and how many are currently enrolled. Public preschool is available for kids from low and moderate income homes, more than half of children in the state.