New Research Shows Early Childhood Education Can Yield 13 Percent Return on Investment

Media Contact: Allie Wright, alwright@savechildren.org, (202) 794-1823

Washington, D.C. (December 12, 2016) – New research by James J. Heckman, a professor at the University of Chicago and a Nobel Laureate in economics, shows that high-quality birth-to-five programs for disadvantaged children can deliver a return on investment of 13 percent for every $1 spent per child, per year through better outcomes in education, health, social behaviors and employment.

Previous research by Heckman found a 7 percent to $1 return on investment for early childhood education in the U.S. This new research shows an increase to 13 percent per child per year due to increased long-term benefits.

“We already knew that early childhood education is a smart investment that will make our kids, families and communities stronger. This research confirms that and shows an even higher return on investment,” said Mark Shriver, President of Save the Children Action Network (SCAN). “Despite this, too many kids in the U.S. do not have access to high-quality early learning programs, and many never catch up to their peers. We encourage the incoming Trump Administration to provide robust funding for federal early childhood education programs so more kids have the opportunity to have a strong start in life.”

According to a report issued by Heckman and several colleagues, The Lifecycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program, this return on investment will reduce taxpayer costs in the long term and prepares our workforce for future success.

Heckman and his colleagues found that significant gains are realized through better life outcomes by analyzing the effects of two identical, random-controlled preschool studies conducted in North Carolina in the early 1970s: The Carolina Abecedarian Project (ABC) and the Carolina Approach to Responsive Education (CARE), 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.

This research bolsters the case for investing in high-quality early childhood interventions that target very young disadvantaged children, engage parents and teach a full range of skills.

“The data speaks for itself,” said Heckman. “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.”

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Save the Children Action Network is the political voice for kids. We believe that every child deserves the best start in life. That’s why we’re building bipartisan will and voter support to make sure every child in the U.S. has access to high-quality early learning and that no mother or child around the globe dies from a preventable disease or illness. By investing in kids and holding leaders accountable, we are helping kids from birth to age five survive and thrive. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.