A study released last month in the journal Science found that by age six, girls are already less likely to see themselves and other girls and women to be as brilliant and capable as boys. While this applied to girls regardless of race and income, a report released in November by The New York Women’s Foundation highlights the particular challenges faced by low-income girls, particularly immigrant girls and girls of color, and the critical need to support their mothers and caretakers in order to promote their progress.
New York City is home to 450,000 girls under the age of eight. Fully three-quarters live in communities of color or immigrant communities. As many as 40% live in poverty.
These girls clearly embody the vibrant, diverse future of our city. Last fall, every poster announcing New York’s new universal pre-K program prominently displayed at least one of those little girls’ shining faces, inspiring deep feelings of warmth and protectiveness.
The problem is that tender feelings and a single additional year of schooling are far from sufficient to meet these girls’ needs. The first eight years of a child’s life comprise a period of both unique vulnerability and unparalleled cognitive, physical, and social-emotional development. Ensuring solid health and progress for low-income girls thus requires ensuring that they receive strong, consistent nurturance from well-supported and well-prepared adults – 24/7 – across all those critical years of learning and growth.
And that is where we run into trouble.
Our report, Blueprint for Investing in Girls Age 0-8 from The New York Women’s Foundation, clearly shows that our society has remained stubbornly resistant to adopting measures that would ensure fair protection, just compensation, adequate support, and strong preparation to the low-income women of color who are raising these girls.