Earlier this week, Nobel Laureate Professor James J. Heckman released new research showing early childhood education can produce higher economic returns than previously established for preschool programs serving 3 to 4 year olds.

Professor Heckman’s new study, The Lifecycle Benefits of an Influence Early Childhood Program, follows up on Heckman’s analysis of the health benefits of the North Carolina Abecedarian (ABC)/Carolina Approach to Responsive Education (CARE) programs – quantifying the economic gains of childcare and adult health outcomes along with education, employment and sociability. Furthermore, the research shows that high-quality birth through age five programs for low-income children can deliver a 13% return on investment, a substantial increase from the 7-10% of previously calculated data.

Other key findings include:

  • No fadeout. ABC/CARE shows permanent gains not only in social-emotional skills, but also IQ.
  • Quality pays off. Both males and females in the ABC/CARE program had significantly better life outcomes than those who didn’t receive center-based care, or who received lower quality care. Specifically, for females, there were positive effects on years of education, high school graduation, adult employment and income, and parental income. As for males, positive effects included lower adult hypertension, blood pressure and drug use; and higher education, health, employment, and income.
  • Quality child care matters. Quality child care gave working families stability by providing care for more than nine hours a day, five days a week for five years. The study also found that these programs helped women enter the workforce, increasing their earnings and independence.

Once again, Professor Heckman’s research emphasizes starting earlier provider’s greater returns and there is more to gain by taking a comprehensive approach to early childhood learning and development.

Read the summary one pager on the report here.