I recently responded to an information request from one early childhood program advocate. This advocate is trying to persuade a local county government to invest funds in early childhood programs. The request was for the “top 5 facts” that might support such investment.
Here is what I came up with:
(1) Early childhood investment will raise the long-run quality of the workforce, which will in the long-run attract more and better jobs to the local area. For example, in various studies, participation in high-quality preschool will increase high school graduation rates by 11% to 21%. For each dollar invested, the present value of local per capita earnings will increase by $2 to $3.
(2) In the short-run, the higher test scores and improved educational performance of preschool participants will attract parents to the local area, which will enhance the local labor force and raise property values. For each $1 in annual program spending on high-quality preschool, property values are estimated to increase by $13.
(3) The reduced incidence of special education assignments and other remedial educational programs will offset a considerable proportion of the initial costs of early childhood programs over a five to 10 year period. Special education assignments, which often cost over $10,000 per year, are predicted to decline by 11% to 23%. Depending upon the assumptions made, and the particulars of the local situation, special education cost savings may cover from 40% to over 100% of the costs of high-quality preschool programs.
(4) Over a 15 to 20 year period, the lower crime rates associated with early childhood programs will lower criminal justice system costs. Involvement in juvenile crime is reduced by one-third to one-half.
(5) The jobs created among preschool teachers and other early childhood employees will have multiplier effects on local economic activity, even if implicitly financed through higher local taxes. Tax-financed early childhood spending creates one new local job for every $175,000 spent, which would be expensive if no useful services were provided, but is a meaningful bonus benefit of a program that also provides valuable services.