At the request of the group ReadyNation, I prepared a one-page issue brief. This issue brief was designed to provide a brief review of the facts about early childhood programs for business leaders who are involved with ReadyNation.
The one-page issue brief is cut and pasted below. I hope it provides a useful summary. The issue brief includes links to previous posts and websites and articles/books that back up the statements that are made.
The below will fit on one page if you eliminate some of the line spaces and use Calibri 11-point font (and I’m sure other fonts as well, but that’s what I used).
Facts from Early Childhood Research
Returns are large
- Pre-K: Present value of increased adult earnings = 3 to 5 times program costs.
- Child-care/parenting programs: Earnings effects= 2 to 3 times cost. (Why? More staff per kid)
- Value of reduced crime might double benefits.
- Half-day pre-K at age 4 increases earnings of disadvantaged kids by 7%. Middle-class: 3%.
- This increases to 10% if we go to full-day or add age 3.
- Comprehensive child-care and pre-K birth to age 5: 25% earnings boost.
Large returns confirmed by recent studies of regular state and local agencies operating at large scale
- Not just Perry/Abecedarian/Chicago, but also Tulsa, Boston, Kalamazoo, New Mexico, Arkansas, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Michigan, South Carolina, West Virginia.
Fade-out: short-term test scores better predictor of long-term earnings than long-term test scores
- Perry had fade out of test score effects, but 19% earnings boost.
- Deming : fade in Head Start test scores, but later outcomes predict 11% adult earnings boost.
- Chetty found that short-term test score effects of kindergarten good predictor of adult earnings effects, but test effects at 3rd grade predict only one-sixth of actual future earnings effects.
- Why? Importance of hard-to-measure “soft skills”.
- Some fade-out may reflect controls getting remediation. Remediation savings is benefit of pre-K.
Head Start study
- Fade-out of short-term effects to statistical insignificance at 3rd grade consistent with long-term effects.
- Head Start study compares HS group with controls that often participated in pre-K.
- Head Start doesn’t have same relative benefits compared to alternatives as it did 40 years ago, which requires HS to up its game.
Costs affordable, and eventually self-financing
- High-quality half-day pre-K is $5K/kid, full-day $9K, full-time child care and pre-K from birth to age 5 is $80K/kid, and parenting programs such as Nurse Family Partnership cost $10K/kid.
- National costs at full-scale are $15 billion/yr. for half-day pre-K for all 4-yr- olds, double for full-day or adding age 3. Full-time child-care/pre-K from birth to age 5 for all disadvantaged kids would cost $40B/yr. NFP for all disadvantaged 1st-time moms costs $4B/yr.
- Costs are modest per capita. Universal pre-K cost of $15B/yr is $50 per capita.
- Fiscal benefits from higher tax revenues, lower welfare/special ed/crime costs result in fiscal benefits exceeding costs after 9 to 49 yrs., depending on assumptions.
Pre-K has broad benefits for working class and middle class kids as well as poor
- Similar $ effects on earnings predicted for both middle-class & poor based on Tulsa/Boston.
- Why? Quality pre-K hard for middle-class to afford on its own.
- Targeting still requires big #s: just below half of children less than 5 are below 200% of poverty.
Child-care/parenting program benefits focused on poor kids, but parental benefits may be broader.
- Why? Middle-class parents may be able to offer/afford such services on their own.
- Subsidized child-care may have broad benefits for middle-class parents & economy.
State test score trends are consistent with positive benefits of broader access to quality pre-K
- Focus on individual states (e.g., OK, GA) is misplaced, because not clean experiment. States change gradually, and other trends going on.
- OK, GA test score effects consistent with pre-K effects, but wide uncertainty in comparing one or two states with others.
- Higher state pre-K enrollment is correlated with higher 3rd grade scores, sufficient to predict adult earnings effect of at least 5%.