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Revisiting the Benefits of a High-Quality Birth-to-Five Program

Carolina_Abecedarian_program.jpgIf high-quality preschool is good, high-quality programs that start at birth are even better. 

That's the finding of Nobel-prize winning economist James J. Heckman, who has studied the long-term benefits to children of participating in early-childhood programs. His most recent evaluation is of two similar 70s-era programs, one called the Carolina Abecedarian Project, or ABC, and the Carolina Approach to Responsive Education, or CARE. Children who participated in the programs were tracked until their mid-30s.

Heckman has published several reports ABC/CARE, including a report that was posted on the National Bureau of Economic Research website in June. That paper was largely similar to the findings that Heckman and his research colleagues released in December 2016, which I wrote about at the time. 

As I noted in that write-up, ABC/CARE doesn't look much like today's child-care programs. It was expansive and expensive—$18,500 per child per year in 2014 dollars. But the program had long-lasting benefits when you look at participants' income, reduced participation in crime, and educational attainment, Heckman says. It also benefited parents, who were able to work and attend school while their children were in care. 

For more details on the program, read my blog entry on ABC/CARE and Heckman's policy recommendations based on his research findings. 

Photo: A young participant in the Carolina Abecedarian Project.—courtesy of the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute

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