In my new book, From Preschool to Prosperity, I put early childhood education in the context of other efforts to increase high-wage employment. Early childhood education is by no means the only policy needed as part of a comprehensive strategy to advance broader economic opportunity.
Early childhood education is but one strategy to improve the quality of the American labor supply. Improving the quality of the American labor supply helps increase wages by creating an economic environment in which firms can readily find skilled labor and therefore are able to implement new technologies and improve productivity. In addition to improving ECE, policymakers need to improve the quality of K-12 education, and to make postsecondary education more financially easy to access.
Labor demand policies are also needed to directly encourage businesses to expand the number of high-wage jobs. Such policies could include manufacturing extension services, which help small and medium sized manufacturers to improve their productivity and competitiveness. Customized job training programs can help encourage businesses to expand high-wage jobs by directly providing the needed skills for specific jobs. Tax policies that reward job creation can also be used to encourage the expansion of high-wage jobs.
However, of all these various labor supply and demand policies, early childhood education probably has the most extensive and rigorous evidence for its effectiveness at a large scale. Our knowledge is not perfect, but is more than adequate to justify large scale investment. Early childhood education represents a good we know how to do.