On December 10th, 2014, Professor Heckman addressed policymakers, advocates, philanthropists, scholars, and members of the media at the White House Summit on Early Education. He emphasized the importance of evidence-based support for initiatives intended to invest in high-quality early childhood programs and bolster family life and parental investment.
During his State of the Union address on February 12, 2013, President Obama referred to Professor Heckman's research and its finding of a 7-10% return on investment per annum for certain early childhood education programs. This evidence is based on the long-term evaluation over 40 years of the Perry Preschool Program, that showed rates of return higher than the return on equity in the stock market between 1945 and 2008.
Most recently, Congress introduced a bill on November 13, 2013 that aims to expand access to high-quality, full-day preschool for 4-year-olds from low- to moderate-income families. Professor Heckman immediately stated his support for the bill, noting that early childhood educational policies such as this bill are socially fair and economically efficient. He also added that "policymakers can promote [the bill's] success by staying true to a few essential principles: focus on disadvantaged families, start at birth, integrate health, develop cognitive and character skills, and encourage local innovation in quality programs from birth to age five." See the full press release here.
In his 2008 paper "Schools, Skills, and Synapses," Professor Heckman concluded that the rate of return to a unit dollar invested in human capital is greatest in the prenatal period, followed by the time from 0-5 years of age. The following oft-cited graph captures this relationship:
An abundance of evidence has shown that investing in early childhood development is both economically efficient and fair, especially when compared to other methods that attempt to "level the playing field." Later remediation is costly and frequently ineffective.