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Heckman Study: Investment in Early Childhood Education Yields Substantial Gains for the Economy

A groundbreaking study published has found that high-quality birth-to-five programs for disadvantaged children can deliver a 13% per child, per year return on investment through better outcomes in education, health, social behaviors and employment — which reduce long-term taxpayer costs and equip country’s workforce for a competitive future. Nobel economics laureate and Institute for New Economic Thinking Advisory Board member Professor James Heckman and colleagues from the University of Chicago and the University of Southern California’s Schaeffer Center have released their findings in a Human Capital and Economic Opportunity working group paper titled The Lifecycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program.

Heckman, Jorge Luis García, Duncan Ermini Leaf and María José analyzed the effects of two identical, random-controlled preschool studies conducted in North Carolina in the early 1970’s: The Carolina Abecedarian Project (ABC) and the Carolina Approach to Responsive Education (CARE). Heckman had previously established a 7-10% return on investment based on the analysis of  the Perry Preschool program, which served 3- and 4-year-olds. ABC/CARE was a comprehensive model from birth to age 5 which combined health, nutrition, family engagement, child care and early learning and in turn provided long-term benefits that far outweigh the costs.

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