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The economics of education: Public benefits of high-quality preschool education for low-income children

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Oppenheim, Jerrold and MacGregor, Theo (of Entergy Corp.)
Publication Date: 
30 Oct 2002

Available online for download.

Excerpts from paper:

Invest in young children. Each dollar invested in the pre-school education of three- and four-year old children from low-income families returns more than $9 to the nation, in present value terms.

Success or failure in a child's early years leads to success or failure in school and consequently, throughout life.

High-quality preschool education increases the ability of low-income children to profit from elementary and secondary education, thereby increases high school graduation rates, and thus generates the following economic returns for taxpayers, alone worth more than double the investment:

- less need for welfare assistance;
- fewer claims for unemployment benefits;
- higher income tax payments;
- less burden on the criminal justice system;
- fewer children needing the costs of an added year in school; and
- fewer children needing costly special education services.

The public also benefits substantially from increased graduation rates that result in crime reduction. Benefits include reduced property loss as well as less personal injury, pain, and risk of death. Total public benefits, including taxpayer benefits, thus exceed eight times the initial investment.