As President Obama has said, “we are stronger when America fields a full team.” Improving life prospects and outcomes for young people, including young men of color, is the right thing to do not just for those individuals, but for our economy as a whole.
As the Baby Boom generation reaches retirement age, a key economic imperative is increasing the size of the labor force. Over the next thirty years, the working age (16-64) population is projected to grow less than half as fast as it did over the preceding thirty years. Increasing labor force participation by enabling our young people, including young men of color, to join with workforce with needed preparation and skills is one way to mitigate the profound demographic challenges that we face and grow the economy’s potential.
Adding to economic growth and opportunity will help with America’s long-run fiscal challenge, expanding the tax base and reducing costs.
Additional investment in education can more than pay for itself over the long-run. One famous study tracked Black children who were provided with high-quality pre-school. By age 40, each initial dollar per participant spent on preschool returned more than $16 relative to a control group. A large portion of the return was public savings, reflecting reduced crime and greater tax receipts from higher employment and earnings, among other factors.
Helping today’s youth become better parents will also help future generations, expanding opportunity and increasing mobility. Studies have consistently found that the environment children are raised in during their first years has a major impact on their cognitive development and life prospects.
(My Brother’s Keeper Task Force Report to the President, 2014)