School-Based Early Childhood Education Program Yields High Economic Benefits

Each dollar spent on a high-quality early childhood program in the Chicago Public Schools yields $4 to $11 in benefits to the economy, according to a new cost-benefit analysis.  (Full disclosure: Barbara Bowman, Chicago’s Chief Early Childhood Education Officer, who oversees the program, was a key advisor on our early childhood education report.)

According to a press release from the National Institutes of Health, which funded the study, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of the federally funded Chicago Child-Parent Centers (CPC) by surveying former students and their parents, and analyzing students’ education, employment, criminal justice and child welfare records for the participants through age 26. Since the program was first established in 1967, researchers have been able to follow the effects of the intervention over time. Their work includes a previous study, which found that “children who had been enrolled in CPCs were more likely to go to college, get a full-time job and have health insurance. The same students were less likely to go to prison and less likely to suffer from depressive symptoms."

"Our findings provide strong evidence that sustained high-quality early childhood programs can contribute to well-being for individuals and society," said Arthur Reynolds, director of the Chicago Longitudinal Study and co-director of the Human Capital Research Collaborative at the University of Minnesota. "The large-scale CPC program has one of the highest economic returns of any social program for young people. As public institutions are being pressed to cut costs, our findings suggest that increasing access to high-quality programs starting in preschool and continuing into the early grades is an efficient use of public resources."