It is within our power to provide an opportunity-rich childhood for all
In 1941 President Franklin Roosevelt delivered his famous Four Freedoms speech. In that speech Roosevelt proposed that all Americans should be granted the freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. In his new book, The Fifth Freedom, senior vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York David Erickson makes the case for the freedom to an open future.
The status quo in the United States is unfair and expensive. We spend too much on downstream consequences of people living in poverty rather than spending money on the upstream conditions that would guarantee an opportunity-rich childhood for all. A strong foundation in childhood is the best predictor of a healthy and productive adulthood. A commitment to the fifth freedom would save trillions on avoided chronic disease, incarceration, educational failures, and lost productivity.
The Fifth Freedom calls for place-based institutions that support growth and development—good schools, well-funded libraries, safe streets and public spaces, quality health care, spiritual homes, and well-functioning transportation that puts other essential amenities in reach, especially jobs—that work in concert with individual interventions—tutoring, counseling, and coaching. Not providing children with the resources they need is more expensive than reacting the negative consequences of not having them.
David Erickson is senior vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He has convened thousands of experts to be speakers at conferences and authors in a series of books on how community development finance can work with other social investors to create more opportunities in low-income communities. Key to this strategy is to create new alliances with sectors that previously did not work with anti-poverty activists: health, climate adaptation, household financial wellbeing, art and artists, faith communities, and others. Throughout, he has focused on how quasi-markets can be tools to create better social outcomes—the subject of his first book, Housing Policy Revolution: Networks and Neighborhoods. Erickson has a PhD in history from the University of California, Berkeley and a BA from Dartmouth College.