Effectiveness of Infant and Early Childhood Programs

Economic Impacts

The Lifecycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program (December 2016), Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Global Working Group (HCEO) - This report by Nobel Laureate James Heckman and colleagues finds that high quality birth-to-five programs for disadvantaged children can deliver a 13% per year return on investment. This is substantially higher than the 7-10% return previously established for programs serving 3- to 4-year-olds. It finds that significant gains are realized through better outcomes in education, health, social behaviors and employment.

It's Time for an Ambitious National Investment in America's Children (April 2016) Economic Policy Institute - This report describes how an ambitious investment in young children, their parents, and the early childhood workforce could have far-reaching benefits for children, families, society, and the economy. It looks at how early childhood programs could address two major weaknesses in the current U.S. economy: income inequality and a slowdown in productivity growth. It also finds that high-quality child care is currently out of reach for many families in the U.S., not just low-income families.

Informing Investments in Preschool Quality and Access in Cincinnati: Evidence of Impacts and Economic Returns from National, State, and Local Preschool Programs (2016) RAND Corporation - Examines the research evidence on the short- and long-run effects of high-quality preschool programs for participating children and their families and the associated costs and economic returns. A discussion about the impacts for universal versus targeted programs and for programs of varying intensity is included.

The Benefits and Costs of Investing in Early Childhood Education (January 2016) Washington Center for Equitable Growth - Describes and analyzes the benefits and costs of investing in high-quality, voluntary, universal prekindergarten for all 3- and 4-year-olds across the country. Suggests that such a program could strengthen the U.S. economy's competitiveness while while also easing a number of fiscal, social, and health problems.

Early Childhood Education (December 2015) Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Global Working Group - This paper summarizes the literature on early childhood education and childcare, considering the evidence from means-tested demonstration programs, large-scale means-tested programs and universal programs without means testing. The evidence from high-quality demonstration programs targeted toward disadvantaged children shows beneficial effects, with returns exceeding costs.

The Economics of Early Childhood Investments (December 2014) - This report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers analyzes the research on economic returns to investments in early childhood education and suggests that expanding early learning initiatives would provide benefits to society of roughly $8.60 for every $1 spent, about half of which would come from increased earnings for children when they grow up. Other benefits would include increased parental earnings and employment, reduced need for remedial education and later public school expenditures, increased educational attainment, improved health, and decreased involvement with the criminal justice system.

Early Childhood Education as an Essential Component of Economic Development; With Reference to the New England States (January 2013), Arthur MacEwan, Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst - This report discusses research findings on early childhood education programs and how the universal provision of high quality early childhood education programs can make significant positive contributions to economic development, as well as general social well-being.

PDF: Unfinished Business: Continued Investment in Child Care and Early Education is Critical to Business and America's Future (2012) Committee for Economic Development (CED) - Describes why investing in early education programs is one of the most effective strategies to secure the future economic strength of local communities and the nation as a whole.

PDF: Vital to Growth: The Early Childhood Sector of the U.S. Economy (2011) Pew Center on the States & Partnership for America's Economic Success - Provides highlights from an in-depth analysis of the early childhood sector of the U.S. economy, which found that public and private investments in young children are equivalent to 2.9 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP); however these investments are inadequate to promote the full economic and social benefits of investing in young children.

PDF: Why America Needs High-Quality Early Care and Education (2009) Business Roundtable and Corporate Voices for Working Families - Describes why high-quality early education is important in building a globally competitive workforce and discusses guiding principles that define the components of high-quality programs.

WWW: Exceptional Returns: Economic, Fiscal, and Social Benefits of Investment in Early Childhood Development (2004) Economic Policy Institute, Robert Lynch - Highlights the economic returns, to society and the individual, of investing in high-quality early childhood programs.

WWW: Early Childhood Development: Economic Development with a High Public Return (2003) Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis - Makes a case for investing in early childhood development. Studies find that well-focused investments in early childhood development yield high public as well as private returns.

Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center

  • CB 8040
  • Chapel Hill, NC 27599-8040
  • phone: 919.962.2001
  • fax: 919.966.7463
  • email: ectacenter@unc.edu

ECTA Center is a program of the FPG Child Development Institute of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, funded through cooperative agreement number H326P170001 from the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the Department of Education's position or policy.

Project Officer: Julia Martin Eile

  • UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
  • IDEAs that Work: Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education