The long run benefits of Good Early Childhood Programs

This paper estimates the large array of long-run benefits of an influential early childhood program targeted to disadvantaged children and their families. It is evaluated by random assignment and follows participants through their mid-30s. The program is a prototype for numerous interventions currently in place around the world. It has substantial beneficial impacts on (a) health and the quality of life, (b) the labor incomes of participants, (c) crime, (d) education, and (e) the labor income of the mothers of the participants through subsidizing their childcare. There are substantially greater monetized benefits for males. The overall rate of return is a statistically significant 13.0% per annum with an associated benefit/cost ratio of 6.3. These estimates account for the welfare costs of taxation to finance the program. They are robust to a wide variety of sensitivity analyses. Accounting for substitutes to treatment available to families randomized out of treatment shows that boys benefit much less than girls from low quality alternative childcare arrangements.

By Garcia, Heckman, et al. Paper here.

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6 Responses to The long run benefits of Good Early Childhood Programs

  1. conrad says:

    It’s great to see studies where they have looked at outcomes so far out from the program.

  2. conrad says:

    I dug through that paper further, and one of the interesting things is that “the yearly cost of the program was $18,514 per participant in 2014 USD”. This is actually pretty similar to the standard costs of Australian childcare (about 20K per year for children in 4 days a week). I assume Australian wages are a higher than the US ones for childcare due to a higher minimum wage, but it would be curious to know how different standard childcare here is vs. what is thought to be an exceptional program in the US.

    If it is not much, then you could get poorer kids in a few days a week just by changing the subsidy structure which currently has no means test (i.e., you could put a means test in and use the savings to subsidize the cost of childcare for low SES groups, or if the cost was not astronomical and the benefits really so large, then the government could just pay out of other tax revenue).

  3. Paul Frijters says:

    it’s only on page 12 that you learn this thing is based on an intervention affecting less than 200 people, raising lots and lots of issues of selection and response biases.

    In a nutshell though, the suggestion is that you are better of with a middle-class mother (‘quality care’) than your own mother if she is from a disadvantaged background. That has been the ‘finding’ of quite a few studies now, ie that if our own mother is not so great, then we should have someone else’s. Not sure where the policy relevance is there. There is by definition a fixed supply of the higher quality ones.

  4. conrad says:

    My comments are getting chopped from this thread for reasons unknown — but if you dig through that report, the cost of the program is about 18K per child. That’s about the same as standard childcare in Aus. So the policy relevance is that if poorer people can get free child care and this care is more or less as good as what is considered special in the US, they would probably benefit a lot. This is especially so because recent stuff on intelligence shows that you find stronger environmental effects in low SES groups compared to others, so you really can get gains in this groups.

    • Nicholas Gruen says:

      Conrad, my apologies for our platform’s recalcitrance. It’s a pity I can’t instruct it to publish anything from you. Perhaps I can but I’m too dumb to know how.

      Rest assured that when I review comments which I usually do every few days, I’ll always take you out of moderation.

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