Research on benefits of quality early learning

Listed below are excerpts from leading research on the benefits of quality early learning to families and communities. You can find much more detailed research summaries on the Pennsylvania Department of Education website.
Studies of several early childhood interventions, including the High/Scope Perry Preschool Program, Abecedarian Project, Chicago Child-Parent Centers, and Parent Child Development Centers, demonstrate that children who participate in a quality early childhood education experience benefit in ways that go beyond the positive outcomes commonly emphasized. These studies suggest that prekindergarten can:

  • Strengthen commitment to and attitude toward school.
  • Lead participants to take better care of their health throughout their lives.
  • Start children on the path to financial stability and independence.
  • Increase the likelihood that mothers of participating children get good jobs.
  • Enhance the parenting skills of participants’ parents.
  • Produce positive effects that extend into future generations.

From Overlooked Benefits of Pre-kindegarten, March 2005

Every $1 spent on high quality early education saves $7 in reduced future expenditures for special education, delinquency, crime control, welfare, and lost taxes or an estimated $48,000 in benefits per child from a half-day preschool program (Reynolds et al., 2002). Results of the cost-benefit analysis indicated that each component of Chicago Child-Parent Center program had economic benefits that exceeded costs. With an average cost per child of $6,730 (1998 dollars) for 1.5 years of participation, the preschool program generated a total return to society at large of $47,759 per participant. The largest benefit was program participants’ increased earnings capacity projected from higher educational attainment.
From Age 21 Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Title I Chicago Child-Parent Center Program Executive Summary, June 2001

Pennsylvania investment in quality pre-k programs could save Pennsylvania $100 million in special education costs. The cost-savings study, initiated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, concluded that if pre-kindergarten was made available to all children, approximately 76,000 – or 50 percent – would participate, ultimately reducing the number of students requiring special education services by 2,380 and saving Pennsylvania taxpayers $102 million. “For every $1 invested [in pre-k], 16-31 cents will be saved elsewhere in the school system.”
From The Cost Savings to Special Education from Pre-Schooling in Pennsylvania,” October 2005, the Pennsylvania Build Initiative

“Providing high-quality Head Start or other pre-kindergarten program to all eligible at-risk Pennsylvania children could prevent as many as 1,700 kids from committing crimes when they grow up.”
From “Head Start and Quality Pre-Kindergarten Could Prevent 1,700 Kids From Becoming Criminals Every Year in Pennsylvania,” Fight Crime Invest in Kids PA, June 2006

Although the achievement gap opens before children even reach school, U.S. support for early childhood education lags well behind that of other developed nations. At a time when a high school diploma is typically the minimum requirement for a decent job, the United States has slipped to 11th among 30 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries in the proportion of 25-34 year olds with that credential.
From Olson, Lynn. “Losing Global Ground,” Quality Counts 2007: From Cradle to Career: Connecting American Education from Birth to Adulthood, Education Week, January 4, 2007

  • It is amazing the studies that have been done to show the benefits of preschool. I love that it instills a greater commitment to school. Young kids minds are eager to learn and if they learn to love it that will help them later in life.

  • Just wondering if there is any updated research that could also be included.
    For instance from 1998– “With an average cost per child of $6,730 (1998 dollars) for 1.5 years of participation, the preschool program generated a total return to society at large of $47,759 per participant. ”
    If those were the figures in 1998, what are they today in 2015? How do those figures in Chicago correlate with the amount of return in PA?

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