Children in Turkey have vastly different odds of success. Their
paths are affected by factors over which they have no control, such as
how wealthy or educated their parents—and even
grandparents—are. By investing in its children and youth, Turkey
can create a virtuous cycle whereby these children and youth contribute
more to their country’s economic growth and social development,
helping to realize its ambitious goals.
Written to contribute to the public policy debate, Life Chances
in Turkey: Expanding Opportunities for the Next Generation notes
that girls are at a particular disadvantage. Compared to a boy born to
well-off, highly educated parents in one of the urban centers of the
country’s west, a girl born in a remote eastern village to poor
parents with primary school degrees is four times as likely to suffer
from low birth weight, one-third as likely to be immunized, and ten
times as likely to have her growth stunted as a result of malnutrition.
She has a one-in-five chance of completing high school, whereas the boy
will likely attend college.
With child development trajectories thus diverging early in life,
pro-equity policies should focus on reaching the most disadvantaged
children early in their life, ideally before birth. Turkey, with the
active involvement of nongovernmental organizations, has piloted a
number of highly successful programs to reach and support disadvantaged
children. But it can do more: only 6 percent of the country’s
total public social spending reaches children below the age of six.
About four times more is spent on a middle-aged or elderly person than
on a child.
Life Chances finds that if today’s under-40 Turkish
adults had all benefited from one year of preschool education when they
were six years old, family incomes could be up to 8 percent higher,
one-tenth of poor families would not live in poverty today, and about 9
percent more women—in other words, millions—could be
working or looking actively for a job.
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