Family Opportunity Guarantee

Suraj Patel
4 min readFeb 6, 2020

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My family outside of their first motel in Bordentown, NJ

Since the 1980s, economic inequality in the United States has skyrocketed while social mobility has steadily declined. A Canadian child born to poor parents today has a 14 percent chance of becoming a top earner — twice the odds of an American child. New York’s 12th Congressional District is one of the wealthiest but most unequal districts in America, with a higher Gini coefficient than Chile.

In order to increase upward mobility and lay the foundation for a new American Dream, we must provide our families with economic security and level the playing field by investing in our children. The current structure of our economy and government punishes families simply for having children, as parents have to choose between working and caregiving. This particularly hurts single parents and low and middle-income communities. Likewise, child poverty disproportionately affects Black and Latinx children.

The suite of policies I am proposing is called the Family Opportunity Guarantee, which addresses the urgent economic needs of American families. It provides health insurance to every child; expands the supply, quality, and affordability of caregiving; invests in early childhood development and education; provides families with the flexibility of a monthly cash allowance to spend on their unique, individual needs.

Our Family Opportunity Guarantee:

Paid Family and Medical Leave

Provide 12 weeks of paid leave so workers can spend time to recover from illness, bond with their baby, or care for a sick family member without having to forgo all of their wages.

Medicare for Kids

In 2018 alone, 800,000 kids lost health insurance through CHIP and Medicaid. Enrolling every child in Medicare would cover an additional 4 million children with health insurance and put us on a fast track to achieving full universal coverage.

Public Option for Child Care

Child care is a child’s right but it costs more than in-state tuition at public universities, significantly holding back working and middle-class families. Federal grants to establish a public option for child care in each state would expand the supply, quality, and affordability of child care.

Nationwide Pre-K

Inequalities in childhood often persist through adulthood. The first five years of a child’s life are most crucial for brain development. Interacting with trained teachers at an early age helps reduce cycles of poverty and increase socioeconomic mobility.

Universal Child Dividend

The cornerstone of this proposal — like a universal basic income (UBI) for kids, a Universal Child Dividend of $500 per kid, per month ages 0–5; $350 per kid, per month ages 6–17 eliminates red tape and provides families with the flexibility needed to meet their unique needs. The Universal Child Dividend would replace programs like the Child Tax Credit.

This proposal also represents a major shift in budget priorities, as currently only 10% of the federal budget is spent on children. If the fundamental promise of America is that a child born into any family can reach their potential, policies that help families with children flourish are the necessary foundation.

For far too long, children have been left out of public policy and families have been sold out to corporate interests. Programs targeted at children generally pay for themselves or even have a positive return on investment. For every dollar spent on addressing programs tailored towards children, $7 is saved down the line.

Our child poverty rate is a moral disgrace and an economic drag. Ending child poverty is not hard — these policy prescriptions will put us on the path to eradicate child poverty, politics allowing.

The Universal Child Dividend alone will slash child poverty in half in just one year, while Medicare for Kids, nationwide pre-k, a public option for child care, and paid family and medical leave provide our economy and society with much needed structural reforms and flexibility to provide our families with economic security and put us on the path to eradicating child poverty.

Eradicating child poverty and increasing economic security for families is a moral imperative that will result in increased economic growth, decreased economic inequality, and increased social mobility. Restoring the promise of New York — education, economic opportunity, and social mobility — starts with our Family Opportunity Guarantee.

I am grateful to the many scholars, policy specialists, activists, and community organizations who offered their time, expertise, and support in creating this proposal. The promise of New York belongs to each and every one of us.

Full White Paper

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Suraj Patel

Lawyer, Activist, Business Ethics Professor @ NYU Stern. Running for Congress in New York’s 12th District.