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Why Early Childhood Is a Millennial Issue, Too

By Liz Alarcon

Liz Alarcon, the director of strategic partnerships at The Children's Movement, also writes a blog about her generation of millennials for the Huffington Post.

For the first time in nearly a century, our generation may end up worse off than our parents'. We know more now than they did then, but the mishaps of generations past have become a serious burden for millennials.

The looming uncertainty about the future has caused Gen Y to obviate "traditional" life choices including home ownership, big corporate jobs, marriage, and forming a family. Among millennials' biggest qualms is the economic viability of having children.

According to data from the Urban Institute, birth rates among 20-something women declined 15 percent between 2007 and 2012. Additional research from the Pew Research Center reflects a longer-term trend of women eschewing parenthood. The number of U.S. women who choose to forego motherhood altogether has doubled since 1970.

So as far as statistics go, I guess I'm part of the trend. At 27, having children is not yet a priority.

Fortunately, I'll be well prepared if I ever do start a family, thanks to my work here at The Children's Movement of Florida. But amid my millennial existential entropy, until -and if- that day comes, why should I, or other childless Gen Ys care about our littlest ones? Besides all that hype about children being our future and what not...

Here are some facts about our state:

  1. There is plenty of data that tells us that investing in children's earliest years will tackle some of the most troubling trends in our country, including the school-to-prison pipeline, underemployment and income inequality. If we invest in children early, we can address those issues before they're much harder to reverse.
  2. More than 283,000 children in Florida are uninsured, and we all know sick children can't focus on learning. These same children will eventually be in the workforce; yea, you're not going to be the coveted talent pool forever, borderline-millennial-in-your-early-30s. Who do you think will carry our state forward (and make sure it doesn't sink) when we are old and gray?
  3. Yea, the little ones. Except right now, the state of Florida spends $2,437 per year on a pre-K student. That's less than $7 a day- less than your Chipotle burrito bowl with a side of guac. Yea, insane, I know. I could keep going, like reminding you that most of brain development happens before age 5. So it's really important to make sure our little brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews are being read to even before they leave mom's belly. And how that'll help children be kindergarten-ready so they don't fall behind when they continue through school.

Yea, we know, we know. But #BecauseFlorida, our state still doesn't have it all together when it comes to investing enough in our children's future. Florida continuously ranks in the bottom percentile on education spending, which is why tackling our long-term education crisis is just as vital as tackling our short-term issues.

Millennials can change that. We know better.

And because we know better, we should do better. Whether we have children or not, here's what's certain. Millennials are the most altruistic, diverse, and well-informed generation in our country's history. We hope you'll join our Movement to harness our collective power and show that we want to hand the next generation of Floridians a better future.

You can read more of Liz's blog on The Huffington Post here, or follow her on Twitter @LizRebeAlarcon