Off to a Good Start

  • Why did we create this?
  • Why Social & Emotional Development?
  • What's New?

The Urban Child Institute (UCI) began publication of the Data Book: The State of Children in Memphis and Shelby County in 2006 to inspire action by encouraging data-driven decisions, highlighting the challenges and opportunities facing our community, and shaping a community-wide conversation about the importance of giving every child a fair start in life. Since that time, the community has frequently used the annual Data Book, using statistics from it in local discussions, policy development, and grant applications. This year, UCI took a step back and asked ourselves how children in Shelby County are doing and where we, as a community, still have challenges. Our analysis was clear—unless our children have the supports and nurturing environments to succeed, their future and the future of our community will not be bright. While UCI spent many years focusing on cognitive outcomes and the science of brain development, other important issues—like the social and emotional well-being of our children—deserved more attention.

What are we really talking about?

Social and emotional development is children’s growing understanding of who they are, what they feel, and how they work together with others. This include a child’s ability to control his emotions, to get along with other children and adults, and the ways in which he reacts to new situations.

Why is this important?

In order for children to succeed in the 21st century, they must be able to problem solve, be strong and adaptable, handle stress, and interact appropriately with other children and adults. While there is significant focus on the racial/ethnic and economic differences in academic achievement and other cognitive outcomes, far less attention has been paid to the abilities that help build social and emotional skills. Drawing on national, state, and local data, the Urban Child Institute partnered with the RAND Corporation to explore the social and emotional well-being of children in Memphis and Shelby County.

You may notice a few differences in the 2014 Data Book, now called Off to a Good Start: Social and Emotional Development of Memphis’ Children. First, we organize our discussion around themes related to children’s social and emotional development, whereas the original Data Book series focused on cognitive development and the science of the brain. Second, we have created more sections in each chapter. We include an explanation of why the topic matters, summary data from local and national sources, and recommendations for community action. Finally, we have partnered with the RAND Corporation, a leading nonprofit research and policy analysis organization, which helped UCI rethink the purpose, content, and rigor of the evidence summarized in Off to a Good Start.

Off to a Good Start