The Romani people are an Indo-Aryan ethnic minority in the Czech Republic, originally an iterant, traveling community settled in various European countries (Hancock, 2003). There are about 11 million Romani people living throughout Europe dating back to the 13th Century (Czech Government Report, 2017). Despite their long history of settlement in the continent, the Romani are the most segregated minority in Europe, facing historical intergenerational persecution, social stigmas, crippling unemployment and debt, segregation and staggeringly high incarceration rate (Romove Radio).
Romani people are the biggest national minority in the Czech Republic. According to Czech government estimates, there are 245,800 Roma in the country (Czech Government Report, 2017). That number is equivalent to 2.3 % of the population of the Czech Republic. However, this number is likely a gross underestimation since the Romani tend to underreport their status in census reports due to the attached stigmas to their ethnicity (Romea CZ, 2017).
Understanding the Multidimensional Effects of Poverty and Stress on the Romani Family
An approach that offers a paradigm shift in the understanding of Romani children’s development, in the context of the Czech Republic, is a deeper look at the role of intergenerational poverty, historical oppression, and societal exclusion.
Disparities in learning, behavior, health, and lifestyle are influenced by race and socio-economic status within the context of the Czech Republic, with any individual outside of the Czech ethnic majority hegemony facing higher barriers to mainstream integration in education and employment. Poverty gives a psychological meaning to economic hardship and functions in a nonlinear, multidimensional manner. This highlights the central problem: toxic stress in Romani families is holding back children’s education and overall healthy development.
The causal sequences of risks that contribute to demographic differences in educational achievement and physical well-being threaten the European Union’s ideals by undermining the democratic credo of equal opportunity.
Poverty and low SES inhibits healthy development and prevents parents from caring for their children to the best of their ability, thus impacting learning outcomes.
Aside from the argument for investing in relieving family stress to benefit Romani children’s education, the effects on the economy are also extensive. Persuasive evidence from cost-benefit analyses reveal the costs of incarceration and diminished economic productivity are associated with educational failure (Shonkoff et al., 2011). Therefore, investing in the education of Romani children will likely reduce the cost of incarceration and diminished economic productivity.
The full return on investments that reduce toxic stress in early childhood is likely to be much higher, as the costs of health issues to a society are enormous and much greater than the costs of incarceration and diminished economic productivity.
The potential savings in health care costs from even small, marginal reductions in the prevalence of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and depression are, therefore, likely to dwarf the considerable economic productivity and criminal justice benefits that have been well documented for effective early childhood interventions (Shonkoff et al., 2011).
Sound investments in interventions that reduce adversity are also likely to strengthen the foundations of physical and mental health, and help develop children who can effectively join the future Czech workforce, have active civic engagement, and contribute positively to the economy.