Investing in upward mobility: 6 billion-dollar bets

Mon, 2016-06-13 13:35 -- Compassionate C...

Upward mobility is one of the key themes in our Compassionate Cities initiative, with an emphasis on how technology can help solve income inequality and make prosperity within everyone's reach. In the U.S. we call it the American Dream – work hard, play by the rules and you'll get ahead. But today that formula for upward mobility is increasingly challenging for young people worldwide. The research highlighted below suggests how six different billion-dollar philanthropic investments could revive the American Dream. But the concepts are worth considering wherever people are dreaming about a brighter future. – Philip Bane


 According to William Foster of The Bridgespan Group, nearly 70% of children born to parents in the bottom 40% of U.S. incomes remain in the economy’s basement -- regardless of whether they "work hard and play by the rules."

Writing for Forbes, Foster suggests several contributing factors, from failing school systems to mass incarcerations in communities of color to employers' inability to fill jobs.

Reversing the situation could have a tremendous impact.

"By conservative estimates," Foster writes, "closing the achievement gap between U.S. schoolchildren from different socioeconomic backgrounds would add $4 trillion in GDP (10%) growth to the U.S. economy by 2050."

So how do you do that?

The Bridgespan Group, a nonprofit working to advance philanthropic effectiveness, undertook an in-depth research effort framed around how a philanthropic investment of $1 billion could dramatically increase upward social mobility for low-income individuals and families.

They ultimately did a deep dive detailing the ROI on six promising billion-dollar investments their research identified:

  1. Improve early childhood development
  2. Establish clear and viable pathways to careers
  3. Decrease rates of conviction and incarceration
  4. Reduce unintended pregnancies
  5. Reduce the effect of concentrated poverty on the lives of people living in distressed neighborhoods
  6. Improve the performance of public systems that administer and oversee social services

An early role for technology
The very first "bet" on the list – improving early childhood development – is about using technology at an early age to influence upward mobility.

The concept is to develop tech-enabled tools that target low-income communities and can be used by parents, informal caregivers, daycare center providers, and pre-K instructors to support the healthy development of children.

A couple of examples cited include:

  • Text4baby – a free cell phone text messaging service for pregnant women and new moms, providing tips on everything from prenatal care to breastfeeding help to car seat safety
  • Ready4K -- a text messaging program for parents of preschoolers designed to help them prepare their children for kindergarten

According to the Bridgespan report, several of the existing tools have already demonstrated positive impacts on academic outcomes and behaviors associated with healthy parenting. 

Download the full report -- Billion Dollar Bets to Create Economic Opportunity for Every American -- to learn more about all six bets.

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This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.

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