In a story highlighted by NPR, a new study underlines the economic importance of early childhood education. Research has come out that re-examines the impact of the Perry Preschool Project and its impact into adulthood. And the results are significant.
The Perry Preschool Project (PPP) was landmark research based on a preschool program in Ypsilanti, Michigan. From 1962 through 1967, the High/Scope Perry Preschool Program was studied for its impact on young children and whether such a model could improve outcomes later on in school. They identified a sample of 123 low-income African American children who were assessed to be at high risk of school failure and randomly assigned 58 of them to a program group that received a high-quality preschool program at ages 3 and 4 and 65 to another group that received no preschool program. The program had important impacts all the way to high school, and it has been a frequent study used to defend and expand comprehensive early learning models, especially Head Start. PPP influenced Head Start, and it was part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. It was created as a summer program in 1965 in a model that bypassed state government by directly funding it locally.
This new study indicated that the PPP increased the education and earnings of participants, reduced participation in crime, and improved health and healthy behaviors. Researchers monetize the life-cycle treatment effects of the program and calculated benefit-cost ratios. They also monetized the impacts on the participants’ siblings and adult children. One of the many conclusions is that the program generates nine dollars of benefits per dollar invested in it.
In describing the results on NPR’s Morning Marketplace, reporter Chris Farrell concluded, “the biggest bang for the public investment buck comes from investing in early childhood development programs, especially if they’re targeted at young kids living on the nation’s lowest incomes. And, you know, what these investments do is they improve academic achievement, they boost social skills and, as people become adults, higher incomes and greater employment.”