Research finds enduring benefits from high-quality early childhood programs

There’s good news for advocates of high-quality early learning programs in new research reported on by the Associated Press.

The children who participated in two of the nation’s oldest preschool programs during the 1970s are now well into their 40s and 50s.

And new research, which looked at their quality of life at age 35, shows that the high-quality child care they received in their early years and support for their parents yielded great economic, health and social benefits…

All the children, who were African American and lived in low-income families, received an array of services from birth to age 5, aimed at improving their education, nutrition and health.

 The report quotes one of the principal researchers.

“The data speaks for itself,” said James Heckman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and director of the Center for the Economics of Human Development at the University of Chicago. “Investing in the continuum of learning from birth to age 5 not only impacts each child, but it also strengthens our country’s workforce today and prepares future generations to be competitive in the global economy tomorrow.”

Heckman was one of the scholars we cited in our foundation report

The state’s commitment to early learning is well-reasoned, given that research from economist James Heckman and others has found that:

…investment in the early education of disadvantaged children pays extremely high returns down the road. It improves not only their cognitive abilities but also crucial behavioral traits like sociability, motivation and self-esteem.

With limited resources, it is prudent for policymakers to focus their early learning investments on those future students who are most likely to otherwise enter school lagging their peers

Lawmakers this year face significant challenges in education funding. Still, we continue to believe in targeted investment in early childhood programs for students most at risk. The research confirms the value of the strategy.