The Value of Investing in Youth in the Washington Metropolitan Region

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Prepared for the Morino Institute by the Brookings Institution Center on Urban & Metropolitan Policy

When President Clinton took a tour of the places "left behind" in the economic boom, left off of the itinerary was his own backyard: Washington, D.C. That metropolitan area has prospered in the past decade, says this report, but many households and communities in the region are still struggling. Children are hit particularly hard and will continue to be, according to the study, unless more is invested in the D.C. area's young people. The report's findings could be used by youth advocates everywhere to bolster arguments for more and better spending on youth.

In the D.C. area, as in the country as a whole, the poverty rate among children is significantly higher than the rate for the general population. By looking at the nation as a whole, then focusing on the Washington metropolitan area, the report contends that failure to invest adequately in various youth issues - education, child care, teen pregnancy prevention, after school programs, access to technology and child abuse and neglect prevention - means more public spending later. For example:

     *Future losses to the economy stemming from the effects of one year of poverty for 14.6 million children nationally are estimated at $177 billion, considering that children who grow up in poverty are more likely to require special education programs, commit crimes, rely on welfare and pay less in taxes because they earn less money. The child poverty rate in the District of Columbia is 36.8 percent.

     *The cost of failing to provide at least two years of quality educational child care to low-income children is approximately $100,000 per child (including the cost of increased crime and welfare dependency). In the D.C. area's Prince William County, Va., there were 366 people waiting for subsidized child care in 1996, and only 84 receiving it.

     *High school dropouts are 3.5 times more likely than graduates to be arrested, and six times more likely to become unmarried parents. The high school graduation rate in D.C. is less than 60 percent.

The report is part of Youth Social Ventures, an entrepreneurial venture of the Morino Institute in partnership with Community Wealth Ventures, Inc., and The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region. 18 pages. Free. Morino Institute, 11600 Sunrise Valley Dr., Ste. 300, Reston, VA 20191. (703) 620-8971.