STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.

Have free time this weekend? Here are 4 recommendations for you.

Girl reading book
Personal Creations / Flickr CC / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

As we head into the weekend, hopefully you'll find time to relax. Here's some recommended reading we think you'll want to check out if you have some down time.

1. Building children's brains

Research shows the time of life that may shape adult outcomes the most is pregnancy through age two or three. The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof addresses the need to invest more in disadvantaged kids from early childhood. Kristof says:

In this presidential campaign, let’s move beyond the debates about free tuition and minimum wages to push something that might matter even more: early-childhood programs for needy kids … America’s education wars resemble World War I, with each side entrenched and exhausted but no one making much progress. So let’s transcend the stalemate and focus on investing in America’s neediest kids. We rescued banks because they were too big to fail. Now let’s help children who are too small to fail.

2. Rental assistance to families with children at lowest point in decade

The number of families with children using HUD rental assistance has fallen by over 13 percent since 2004, hitting an 11-year low in 2015, despite rising need.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Nearly 3 million very low-income families with children had “worst case housing needs” in 2013 — meaning they paid more than half their income for rent or lived in severely substandard housing — 53 percent more than in 2003.

3. Family support or school readiness? Contrasting models of public spending on children's early care and learning

Federal spending on programs to support children’s early learning and care, including through Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant program, amounts to roughly $22 billion a year. Several billion more is spent by states from their own tax revenues. But Grover Whitehurst, senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, explains how the family support model would be a more effective way to spend as much or more public funds on early education and childcare than the school readiness model:

Public expenditures on early childhood programs are nearly always justified as investments that will eliminate socioeconomic and racial gaps in school readiness and elevate subsequent student achievement and life success. This a matter of emphasis rather than mutual exclusivity. In other words, expenditures that have a primary goal of strengthening and supporting families in carrying out their responsibilities as parents need not and should not ignore children’s development, including children’s cognitive and social-emotional readiness for school. But in a family support model school readiness is one branch on the tree, not the trunk.

4. How Columbus is using transit to reduce infant mortality

In South Linden, a poor, predominantly black neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio, for every 1,000 babies born, about 24 die before they turn one. Premature births, low birth weights, and unsafe sleeping are common causes of death.

According to CityLab from The Atlantic:

The city of Columbus has begun to seriously address its infant mortality problem, working with the state of Ohio, Franklin County, and local health providers to dispatch community health workers into hard-hit neighborhoods. They help register women for health insurance and educate them about pre- and post-natal care, nutrition, and safe sleep habits. Private businesses have partnered with the city to host job fairs and skills-training opportunities. But lately, the city is rallying particularly hard to improve a service that touches on many other social determinants of health: transportation.

Do you have anything to add to this list? If so, let us know in the comments below.