“The Life-cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program,” a recent working paper by Center Director James Heckman, Jorge Luis García, and co-authors, was featured this week in a New York Times article on the importance of high-quality early childhood education. The article notes the multi-generational benefits of early childhood investment.
“Recent studies show that of any policy aimed to help struggling families, aid for high-quality care has the biggest economic payoff for parents and their children — and even their grandchildren,” the author writes. “It’s especially helpful for low-income families, because it can propel generations of children toward increased earnings, better jobs, improved health, more education and decreased criminal activity as adults.”
The paper evaluated the costs and benefits of The Carolina Abecedarian Project (ABC) and the Carolina Approach to Responsive Education (CARE), two experimental early childhood programs that offered free, full-time childcare to low-income children. Heckman and his co-authors calculated both the value of the program in helping mothers enter the workforce and the long-term health benefits. The researchers found “a statistically significant aggregate benefit/cost ratio of 6.3 and a rate of return of 13.0% per annum, even after adjusting for the welfare costs of financing the program through taxation.”
As the article notes, “It’s children with parents who can least afford high-quality care who benefit most from it.”
You can read the full New York Times article here. “The Life-cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program” working paper can be read here. An article from the Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Global Working Group about the paper, featuring insight from co-author Jorge Luis García, can be found here.