Economic Impact

Less than half of low-income children have access to high-quality early childhood programs that could dramatically improve their opportunities for a better future. This statistic is tragic when one considers that skills developed in the first five years of life greatly influence success later in life. Expanding access and options for parents to access quality early childhood programs have proven benefits for individuals and society in reduced healthcare costs, increased school achievement and a more educated workforce.

This research details the economic gains high-quality early childhood programs provide.


Gertler, P.; Heckman, James J.; Pinto, R.; Zanolini, A.; Vermeersch, C.; Walker, S.; Chang, S.M.; Grantham McGregor, S.

• This recent follow-up study of a low-cost early childhood intervention conducted in Jamaica from 1986 through 1988 by researchers at the University of the West Indies demonstrates the effectiveness of home visiting programs, parent-child interactions and cognitive and social stimulation for infants and toddlers in closing the achievement gap and producing long-term economic gains.
• Extremely disadvantaged children treated in the Jamaican Study earned 25 percent more as adults than disadvantaged children who received no treatment—and they earned as much as their more advantaged peers. The results reinforce the value of high-quality home visiting programs for disadvantaged children in the United States.

Source: Gertler, Paul, James J. Heckman, Rodrigo Pinto, Arianna Zanolini, Christel Vermeersch, Susan Walker, Susan M. Chang, Sally Grantham McGregor. “Labor market returns to an early childhood stimulation intervention in Jamaica.” Science 344.6187 (2014): 998-1001.
Link: intervention-jamaica

Heckman, James J., Hyeok Moon, S.; Pinto, R.; Savelyev, P.A.; Yavitz, A.
• This paper estimates the ROI (return of investment) of the Perry Preschool program, an early intervention program targeted toward disadvantaged African-American children, as 7-10 percent per annum based on improved social and economic outcomes.

Source: Heckman, James J., Seong Hyeok Moon, Rodrigo Pinto, Peter A. Savelyev, Adam Yavitz. “The Rate of Return to the HishScope Perry Preschool Program.” Journal of Public Economics 94 (2010): 114-128.

Reynolds, A.J.
• The authors compared the outcomes of program participants to those of demographically similar children living in neighborhoods where centers were operating. Children who enrolled in Chicago Child Parent Centers were less likely to be retained or placed in special education and were more likely to graduate from high school. At age 26, program participants had lower arrest rates, lower rates of depressive symptoms, and higher rates of insurance coverage. It’s estimated the program had a return of nearly 11 dollars for every dollar invested.

Source: Reynolds, A.J. et al. (2011). Age 26 cost-benefit analysis of the Child-Parent Center Early Education Program. Child Development, 82(1), 379-404.