Hello Quartz members—
New parents and early childhood are a market ripe for disruption, as this week’s field guide showed: Science is making significant advances in the field of early childhood development; policymakers are buying in at scale to the notion that early childhood offers a high return on investment among social spending; and technology is evolving to do what no baby book ever could—personalize and deliver, on demand, the targeted information that new parents need.
It’s no wonder, then, that money from tech investors like Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, Jeff Bezos and his ex-wife MacKenzie, and Pierre Omidyar is pouring into the field, to join established, deep-pocketed philanthropists like the Buffetts, the Kelloggs, and the Packards.
I found the tension inherent in tech’s interest in early childhood especially interesting. These new investors think in moonshots, not minutiae; they want to change the world, not just improve things a little bit, as Jack Shonkoff, founder of the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University, told us. And that’s welcome news for a field somewhat stuck in its ways.
But what the tech sector offers in bravado and bold thinking, it often lacks in humility. As the entrepreneurs who are turning their attention to this world are discovering, there are few things that demand more analog, human interaction than parenting. Social interaction is at the core of how human brains develop; technology can make it more difficult to be present, attentive, and engaged. As Quartz senior reporter Jenny Anderson, the guide’s author discovered, it’s a conundrum the entrepreneurs she interviewed are tackling with relish.
Here are a few conversation starters from our guide:
TO DISCUSS WITH FRIENDS OVER DINNER…
- A new study from two Harvard University economists found that direct investment in low-income children’s health and education have the highest payoff when compared to 133 other policy changes in the US, including Medicare and Medicaid expansions, and the introduction of food stamps. (It returns $1.47 for every $1 invested.)
- For all the interest in early childhood, the amount being invested is still small. In one survey, 91 education funders set aside just 3% of their overall grants for early childhood. (More than half of them did say, however, that they planned to increase support over the next two years.)
- In the US, 42% of three year olds and 68% of four year olds are enrolled in early education, placing it well below the OECD average of 69% and 86% respectively.
- And yes, the Nordics do it better. In Finland, all children can be enrolled in early education and care from age one. It’s free for parents who can’t pay, and for those who can, the cost is a maximum $300 a month (including meals).
…OR WITH US, TODAY, ON THIS CALL
Join us for a discussion today at 11am EDT/4pm BST with Jenny and editor Jason Karaian, during which they’ll take stock of the market for supporting new parents, assess the wave of entrepreneurs coming into the field, and examine which countries are doing it well. We’ll be taking questions and comments live on the video conference call, accessible at the usual location.
If you’d like to dial in, use the following numbers: UK 0800 014 8469 USA 866 226 4650. For both numbers, the access code is 722 994 440.
WHAT ELSE SHOULD WE TALK ABOUT?
We’re actively planning future calls and coverage. We’d love to hear more from you. What are you curious about? Are there topics you’d like us to cover on one of our calls? Reply to this email with your thoughts.
NEXT WEEK: THE FUTURE OF WORK
Next week, for Quartz members, we look to the history of work to understand what the future might hold, and we dive into the challenges and opportunities we face as jobs change. Have a good weekend!
Executive editor, Quartz