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The economic benefits of high-quality early childhood programs: What makes the difference?

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Galinsky, Ellen
Publication Date: 
1 Feb 2006

Excerpts from the report:

The early childhood field is deeply indebted to three studies of high-quality early education programs that began in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s and have continued to the present time&emdash;the High/Scope Perry Preschool Project, the Abecedarian Project, and the Chicago Child-Parent Centers (CPC)&emdash;because these studies provide strong evidence of the economic benefits of early childhood education as an economic investment.

Each of these studies looked at the lasting impact of its high-quality early childhood program and found significant savings over the costs of these programs. These studies, however, also reveal that potential economic benefits depend on programs being high quality. This paper is written in response to the tendency of a number of people to use the findings from these three studies to justify any and all early childhood programs without trying to extrapolate what these three studies specifically did that made a difference in affecting children in such dramatic ways. Even those who argue for high quality are likely to mean very different things when they use these words. This paper reflects an effort to determine what exactly about these three early childhood programs made them so successful, relying, in part, on interviews with the principal investigators of the programs.