Appendix B

Does preschool have long-term educational and economic benefits?

Research suggests the answer may be YES.

Intensive preschool interventions targeting disadvantaged children have been shown to yield significant gains that may last well into adulthood. Longitudinal studies have been conducted to evaluate the enduring outcomes of several well-known preschool programs.

  • Michigan’s Perry Preschool program served 123 4-year-olds for two years. Participants have been tracked to age 40.
  • North Carolina’s Abecedarian preschool served 111 children from age 4 months to 5 years. Participants have been followed to age 21.
  • Illinois’ Chicago Child-Parent Centers served 1,500 children. Participants have been followed to age 20.

How did children served by these programs fare later in life?

  • They were more likely to stay in the regular classroom and out of special education.
  • They were more likely to go through school without repeating a grade.
  • They were more likely to complete high school without dropping out.
  • As adults, they were more likely to be employed and to have higher earnings.

Although long-term benefits of such interventions have been demonstrated, the costs of some exemplary programs can be quite high. On an annual per-student basis, the Perry Preschool and Abecedarian programs, respectively, spent about $9,000 and $10,500 (adjusted to 2000 dollars). As a result, some have questioned the cost-effectiveness of such programs and the extent to which they can serve as models for larger-scale interventions.

Barnett, W.S. & Belfield, C.R. (2006). Early Childhood Development and Social Mobility. The Future of Children: Opportunity in America, 16(2), 73-98.

Borman, G.D. & Hewes, G.M. (2002). The Long-Term Effects and Cost-Effectiveness of Success for All. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 24(4), 243-266.

Cunha, F. & Heckman, J.J. (2006). “Investing in Our Young People.” Working Paper. University of Chicago.

Return to: Rolnick Testimony

Federal Reserve Consumer Help