Small Talks DC: Securing the American Dream for Young Children

Featuring Author J.D. Vance

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J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, a first-hand reflection on the economic, social, and cultural barriers that influence rural white social mobility, stormed to the top of bestsellers’ lists in 2016. While pundits have pointed to the book to explain the struggles faced by rural adults, this event focus on what comes before: the issues faced by communities in poverty which impact child development, economic mobility, and life outcomes. 

This event, in partnership with the Institute for Child Success, will feature remarks by J.D. Vance, followed by a panel discussion. This panel will pay special attention to the cultural and systemic barriers associated with economic mobility and broach strategies to address these issues for child and family success along with acknowledging the strong role that families play in supporting the development of children into self-sufficient citizens. 

While they manifest themselves differently based on the community, there are common problems children and families experience, often associated with living in poverty across race and geography. These issues of housing and family instability, insufficient high-quality educational opportunities, and prominently, drug addiction and violence, are pervasive throughout the country. The question looms: what common strategies are most effective for children and families, while recognizing community differences and responding to local contexts? 

This panel will discuss these economic, systemic, and cultural issues from an early childhood and family-system perspective. Vance’s own experience excelling in school thanks to the help of a supportive grandmother illustrates the impact of a supportive home environment and multi-generational families supports. Building from his experience and observations, we will explore policy and societal responses to the current challenges facing families.

New America is partnering with the Institute of Child Success for this event in the Small Talks series. Launched in 2010, the Institute for Child Success (ICS) is a private, nonpartisan research and policy organization. ICS works to create a culture that facilitates and fosters the success of all children. ICS supports policymakers, service providers, government agencies, funders, and business leaders focused on early childhood development, healthcare, and education – all to coordinate, enhance, and improve those efforts for the maximum effect in the lives of young children.

Follow the conversation online by using #HillbillyElegy and following @NewAmericaEd or @BetterLifeLab on Twitter.

J.D. Vance will be signing books from 3:30 - 4:00pm, and copies of Hillbilly Elegy are available for purchase by credit card.


J.D. Vance, @JDVance1
Author, Hillbilly Elegy

Tyra Mariani, @Tyram25
Executive Vice President, New America

Mary C. Garvey, @child_success
Director of Innovation and Inclusion, Institute for Child Success


David Wessel, @davidmwessel
Director, Hutchins Center on Fiscal & Monetary Policy, Brookings