This article appeared originally in nprEd. Link to full article in nprEd How Learning Happens
If you got 13 percent back on your investments every year, you'd be pretty happy, right? Remember, the S&P 500, historically, has averaged about 7 percent when adjusted for inflation.
What if the investment is in children, and the return on investment not only makes economic sense but results in richer, fuller, healthier lives for the entire family?
That's the crux of a new paper out Monday, The Life-Cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program, co-authored by Nobel laureate James Heckman, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the director of the Center for the Economics of Human Development.
There's a growing body of research on the value and importance of high-quality early education programs — especially for disadvantaged kids.
But there's surprisingly little research on its impact over time. This paper helps change that. Heckman and his co-authors examine the many ways in which these high-quality programs helped participants thrive throughout life.
The paper analyzes two North Carolina programs founded in the 1970s that worked with infants from 8 weeks old through age 5. The rub for researchers: The programs included data collection from birth through age 8 on a wide range of school and home life factors as well as long-term follow-ups through age 35.
Quality early education programs are expensive upfront. But as Heckman argues, the returns are enormous; the investment well worth it.
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