Improving Systems, Practices and Outcomes

Effectiveness of Infant and Early Childhood Programs

Long-Term Impacts to Children, Families and Society

WWW: The Carolina Abecedarian Project was a carefully controlled scientific study of the potential benefits of early childhood education for children from low-income families. Participants received full-time, high-quality educational intervention in a childcare setting from infancy through age 5. Each child had an individualized prescription of educational activities that focused on social, emotional, and cognitive areas of development, with a particular emphasis on language. The children's progress has been monitored with follow-up studies conducted at ages 12, 15, 21, and 30. Adult findings demonstrate that important, long-lasting benefits are associated with the program.

PDF: Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Pre-Kindergarten Effects (2017) The Brookings Institute - This report looks at the characteristics of effective pre-k programs, the role of pre-k curricula, the benefits of universal pre-k compared to more targeted programs for children at risk, cost-benefit studies, financing, and more. It includes a WWW: consensus statement developed by a group of leading pre-k researchers and experts who came together to review the current evidence on the impact of state-funded pre-kindergarten programs.

WWW: 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.

WWW: Effects of Two Influential Early Childhood Interventions on Health and Healthy Behaviors (2015) - This report from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) examines the long-term impacts on health and healthy behaviors of the Perry Preschool Project and the Carolina Abecedarian Project, finding that both interventions have statistically significant effects on the healthy behavior and health of their participants. Treatment effects are particularly strong for males. Health outcomes affected vary by intervention.

PDF: Getting the Facts Right on Pre-K and the President's Pre-K Proposal (2013) by W. Steven Barnett, Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) - This policy report examines what the research evidence shows in answer to the following four questions: (1) Does high-quality pre-K have lasting benefits? (2) What is the evidence for the $7 to $1 return on investment for preschool? (3) Do non-disadvantaged children benefit from pre-K, and is a targeted or a universal approach to preschool more effective? (4) Are large-scale public pre-K programs, including Head Start, effective? The author finds that when all of the evidence is considered, large-scale public programs have succeeded in producing meaningful long-term gains for children and not just disadvantaged children. The size of those gains depends on the quality of the program.

WWW: The Heckman Equation - This Web site features Nobel prize-winning economist James Heckman's work to to better understand the long-term benefits of investing in early care and education for disadvantaged children and their families. It includes a slideshow on "The Heckman Equation" and a variety of tools, videos, videos in Spanish, speeches, and more.

WWW: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Project developed a high-quality educational approach over 40 years ago focusing on 3- and 4-year-olds at risk for school failure. The longitudinal study found that adults at age 40 who had the preschool program had higher earnings, were more likely to hold a job, had committed fewer crimes, and were more likely to have graduated from high school than adults who did not participate in the program.

PDF: How Much Could We Improve Children's Life Chances by Intervening Early and Often? (2014) - This brief from the Center on Children and Families (CCF) at the Brookings Institute finds that well-evaluated targeted interventions can close over 70% of the gap between more and less advantaged children and can greatly improve social mobility and enhance the lifetime incomes of less advantaged children. The findings also suggest that these interventions would have a positive ratio of benefits to costs for the American taxpayers.

Importance and Outcomes of Early Intervention for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities and their Families (Fact Sheet) (2011) - The Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities Program (Part C) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was created in 1986 to enhance the development of infants and toddlers with disabilities, minimize potential developmental delay, and reduce educational costs to our society by minimizing the need for special education services as children with disabilities reach school age. These fact sheets from the National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (NECTAC) provide a brief overview of the Part C program and facts from the research on early brain development, the importance of intervening early, the outcomes of early intervention, and current unmet needs. They are meant to be used as a tool to communicate with policymakers, pediatricians, families, and community leaders about the importance of high quality services for infants and toddlers with or at-risk for developmental delays and their families.

WWW: 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.

PDF: Investing in Our Future: The Evidence Base on Preschool Education (2013)
This research brief provides a non-partisan, thorough review of the current evidence on why early skills matter, which children benefit the most from preschool, the short- and long-term effects of preschool on children's school readiness and life outcomes, the importance of program quality, and the costs versus benefits of preschool education. The brief was funded by the Foundation for Child Development and produced in collaboration with the Society for Research in Child Development. An executive summary is also available.

PDF: Short- and Long-Term Impacts of Large Public Early Care and Education Programs (2014) - This brief from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) describes the short- and long-term impacts of large public Early Care and Education programs in the U.S. for children before kindergarten entry, including what key features of programs lead to the best outcomes and how to sustain program benefits as children grow older. It does not include the many smaller ECE programs, including model or demonstration programs in the U.S. and abroad, that have also been evaluated.

WWW: Start Early to Build a Healthy Future: The Research Linking Early Learning and Health (2014) - This report from the Ounce of Prevention Fund summarizes new research on what children need to get a healthy start in life and the positive effects of nurturing relationships, safe and secure environments, access to nutrition, health-promoting behaviors, and enriching early learning experiences. The authors provide policy and practice recommendations for supporting children's lifelong health through quality early care and education programs, as well as improved coordination and integration across agencies involved with young children and their families.

WWW: Starting Early: Education from Prekindergarten to Third Grade, The Future of Children (2016) - This issue of The Future of Children reviews the evidence on pre-K effectiveness and provides recommendations for what can be done to ensure that children retain the benefits of pre-K through the early elementary grades. One article of special interest for the early intervention/early childhood special education community is WWW: Supporting Young Children with Disabilities, by Kathy Hebbeler and Donna Spiker, co-directors of the Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems (DaSy).

  • IDEAs that Work: Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education

The 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     © 2012-2019 ECTA Center

  • UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute