We open this story of opportunity in America where many would begin — with our children, and what opportunity looks like for them today.
Some are born to privilege, with parents who have both the time and resources to invest in their development, living in neighborhoods with strong and cohesive social networks, attending good schools, and benefiting from substantial public investments that support them as they grow. Others are born to struggling families that face daily challenges to provide for them, living in communities with a lack of safe housing options and few job prospects for residents — communities with inadequate schools, many shattered by poverty and violence.
These different starting points place children on distinctly different trajectories of growth, leading to an accelerated accumulation of advantage or disadvantage and, ultimately, to vastly different adult outcomes.
This polarization of life outcomes is truly national in scope. Some 12 million children, or 17 percent of those under the age of 18, live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level, and nearly 3.4 million children are growing up in neighborhoods that their parents describe as unsafe. Seventeen percent of children under age 18 were living in households that were food insecure at some point during 2017, and a record 1.5 million public school children were homeless during the 2017–2018 school year.
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