Universal Pre-K Just – Overall Heckman and his team

Overall, Heckman and his team calculate that every dollar invested in children through Perry Preschool pays for itself by 7-10% per year through more economic growth for children and less government spending on them in other social programs as they grow older. Consistent with other studies showing that preschool has a significant impact on children, Walters, Gray-Lob and Pathak found that children who were lucky enough to be enrolled in Boston preschool experienced significant changes in their lives. The new Boston study, which looks at a massive citywide program, is another brick in the growing body of evidence that preschool education is a worthwhile investment not only for children, but for society as a whole. The fact that school principals in Boston determined kindergarten admissions at random meant that there were two virtually identical groups of children, the only difference being that one group received an extra year of schooling while attending kindergarten. “The combination of results – we found no effect on test scores, but we did find an effect on those behavioral outcomes and the likelihood of going to college – is consistent with the idea that there is some kind of noncognitive or social-emotional behavioral effect of preschool education,” says Christopher Walters, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley and a co-author of the study. In other words, there is growing evidence that preschool education can make a lasting difference in children’s lives, but not necessarily because it makes them smarter. In a recent study, Heckman and his team found that even children of children who attended Perry preschool had significantly better life outcomes. Heckman and his colleagues found that Perry preschool had a seismic effect on children who attended school. Interestingly, although attending preschool at age 4 had a significant effect on these children’s overall life outcomes, it did not improve their performance on standardized tests. Children who attended preschool earned 70 percent of their high school diplomas, six percentage points more than children who did not attend preschool and earned only 64 percent of their high school diplomas. This gave the researchers the opportunity to compare and contrast the two groups of children and reliably see how children’s lives changed as a result of entering kindergarten. As impressive as the results of Heckman’s preschool programs were, opponents had long wondered whether such effects could be replicated with broader programs, such as the one now proposed by President Biden. Then they were able to get additional data from other sources that allowed them to understand how children’s lives would be affected by an extra year of preschool. How would their lives have changed? How would society have changed? If President Biden gets his way and Congress agrees to spend $200 billion on his proposal for universal preschool, we might start to find out. Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman spent years studying the results of small randomized experiments with preschool centers in the 1960s and 1970s.