Academic Partnership Between CEHD and the Universidade de São Paulo to Focus on Early Childhood Intervention

The Center for the Economics of Human Development (CEHD) at The University of Chicago and the Universidade de São Paulo (USP) are partnering on a collaborative research initiative focusing on early childhood intervention.

This program will be spearheaded by Nobel Laureate James J. Heckman, Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor at The University of Chicago, who leads CEHD, and Alexandra Brentani, a Professor of Pediatrics at the Universidade de São Paulo. The aim of the initiative is to promote academic cooperation between the two institutions and further research on early childhood.

Socioeconomic inequality and poverty around the world are perpetuated through disparities in skills and abilities due to a dearth of investment in human capital. Early childhood intervention has proven to be an effective investment in terms of impact and cost. This joint research initiative will focus on the Reach Up Jamaica Model, a low-cost home-visiting program that provides nutrition and social stimulation to children as well as parental support to families. The program has shown long-term success in Jamaica and is currently being replicated in a variety of international contexts, including Brazil.

CEHD’s research has shown that the formation of early life cognitive and socio-emotional skills plays a large part in determining later-life outcomes in dimensions such as earned income, crime, and health. Short-term follow up studies of the original Jamaica intervention, pioneered by Sally Grantham-McGregor, showed that social stimulation was crucial in improving school-aged outcomes of the treated children. A longer-term analysis when participants were 24 years of age showed that the intervention increased the labor market earnings of the treated children by 25%.

CEHD and USP will implement and study the Jamaica model in two communities in Brazil, São Paulo and Boa Vista. Dr. Brentani’s team has already implemented a version of the model in the former city and is now conducting follow-ups of the original cohort. Meanwhile, the team is preparing for another implementation in Boa Vista that will expand the focus of the study to include measures relating to health and the microbiome.

This collaboration will allow us to study the variable impacts of the Reach Up program across different socioeconomic and cultural groups. It will also enable us to collect additional data on child growth in order to better understand the mechanisms through which the Jamaica model effects long-lasting change.

In addition to this work, the CEHD-USP partnership will include opportunities for the exchange of academic researchers, joint organization of scientific seminars and conferences, and the opportunity to collaborate on academic publications.