The Path to Middle Class Paved with Early Childhood Success

Carlos San Miguel, RESULTS U.S. Poverty Intern
September 25, 2012

What is the ultimate dream for most parents? Most would say that they want their children to be more successful than they were in life. Other parents might say they want their children to have the most opportunities possible so that they may find their own happiness. In either case, how successful any child will be is determined, in part, by the circumstances surrounding their early years. The child’s success begins not in high school but in preschool as they build a solid base for future success.

Brooking Institution: Chart from "Pathways to the Middle Class," by Isabel Sawhill, Scott Winship and Kerry Grannis

The Brookings Institute’s Social Genome Project recently published findings that support early childhood success is vital for future growth. The odds of a child to make it to the middle class increase dramatically if they are ready for school at the age of five. The definition of a child who reaches middle class as an adult is set with an average salary of a married couple with two children above $68,000 a year. This would classify someone achieving middle class status with income 300 percent above the current poverty line. They broke down a life cycle into six stages which they called the Social Genome Model (SGM). The research predicts how successful a child will be throughout each cycle based on the one that preceded it. The findings concluded that those who were ready for school at the age of 5 had a 72 percent of achieving middle class status versus those who were not prepared only had a 59 percent chance of success. College success goes even lower to 48 percent success for those who were not prepared for school at the age of 5. In each life stage measured by the SGM those children that were ill prepared see their chances of success dwindle after each step. In stark comparison the children that were adequately prepared never deviated from more than 70 percent success rate in reaching middle class status. 

The research is clear that for all children being prepared for school at an early age effects their future tremendously. This makes government backed programs such as Head Start, Early Head Start, and Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) critical for the success of our children and future generations. RESULTS are a strong advocate for these programs and have a deep understanding of their importance within our society. Our children are the future that we need to protect. We need to make substantial investments to their education and well being in order to ensure their future success. For more on what’s happening with early childhood programs and actions you can take, see our Recent Developments page