Drawing from a year-long research effort, we have identified opportunities where $1 billion of targeted private funding would have a chance to provide low-income individuals with an equal opportunity to improve their life trajectories.

1. BIRTH: Improve Access to Contraceptives

Unintended pregnancies — those that are either unwanted or ill-timed — can lead to inter-generational cycles of poverty. Often, these pregnancies occur before the parents have completed their educations. Unplanned infants are more likely than other babies to have low birth weights, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and mothers in these circumstances are twice as likely to suffer from postpartum depression, which may lead them to drop out of high school or college.

Here’s the good news: From 2008 to 2011, unintended pregnancies dropped by 18 per cent in the U.S., reaching their lowest level in decades. Thanks in part to popular TV shows like MTV’s 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, interest in contraception is high.

Today, there are far more effective options than were once available — and with the expansion of public healthcare, many of them are available for free. Long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) methods — specifically, intrauterine devices (IUDs) and hormonal implants — require almost no daily effort, last for three to 10 years, and have less than a one per cent failure rate. However, less than half of low-income women are able to access any sort of family planning services from publicly-funded clinics.

With access and information, everything changes. In 2009, the state of Colorado offered 30,000 free LARC devices to women. Within four years, birth rates among teens and 20- to 24-year-old women dropped precipitously. Medicaid also avoided nearly $79 million in birth-related costs, making the initiative’s return on investment $5.85 for every dollar spent. Colorado illustrates that when clinics increase access to LARCs, unintended pregnancy becomes an almost entirely solvable problem.

ROI ON $1 BILLION: Applying the ‘Colorado effect’ would potentially result in up to 124,000 more properly-timed pregnancies. Using SGM’s estimate of increased lifetime earnings for the resulting babies, the calculated return is between $3.2 billion and $6.4 billion in total increased earnings for these children.

2. EARLY CHILDHOOD: Use Technology to Improve Early Learning

Experts now have a better understanding of how early development and school readiness influences a child’s progression. The Brookings Institution’s Centre on Children and Families reports that 82 per cent of children who enter kindergarten ‘developmentally ready’ will master basic skills by the third grade — an important indicator of continued success in middle school and high school.

Research shows that a child’s development is significantly influenced by life experiences—especially interactions with adults. By equipping parents and other caregivers with the right tools, we can foster development during the critical birth-to-kindergarten years. This is where digital technology — in the form of apps and computer programs — comes into play. For starters, tech tools can help parents and caregivers assess children for kindergarten-readiness and link them with the right services to get them ready for school. For example, there are ‘nudge technologies’ like the text4baby app, which sends new moms free text messages with personalized health and developmental information from birth through the baby’s first year. Mothers can set up reminders for doctor’s appointments and receive messages that describe baby’s key developmental milestones.

ROI ON $1 BILLION: If approximately 350,000 to 700,000 more children enter kindergarten with a greater capacity to learn, we estimate their cumulative lifetime earnings will increase by $5.5 billion to $11 billion.

Read the source article at Rotman School of Management