Los Angeles is the best of cities and it’s the worst of cities. But not for the same people. While some Angelenos are thriving in the verdant neighborhoods where the Santa Monica mountains meet the sea, other Angelenos are barely making it, baking in the stark concrete urban jungle where dreams go to dry. As we look to the next 50 years, we face a choice: we can choose poverty or choose abundance. This choice is not a choice only or even primarily about how to use money. It is a choice about how to use people. Shall we use people to fill prisons or to create ideas? Are the 47% a burden on social welfare, or untapped potential for future economic growth?
There are a large number of investments in early childhood that the public and non-profit sectors can make, and they are truly investments. These programs, including parenting education, tutoring for English language-learners, lead abatement, and counseling for troubled kids, will produce much more revenue for the City, County, and State in the future than they cost today. For the best of these programs, the net internal rates of return on investment exceed 100%. Local and state governments can double their money by investing in people. With an opportunity to make Angelenos better off and double their money, the question is no longer why we should make such investments, but why on earth would we not?
The Center for Health Advancement at UCLA is dedicated to the making Los Angeles the first city to embrace—and benefit from—the enormous potential of its disadvantaged.
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