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Preschool Education can Benefit Generations of Families

Research published in May by Nobel laureate James Heckman has revealed how preschool education can have a lasting impact that benefits generations of families.

According to the research conducted at the University of Chicago, it was found that early childhood education programs can impact life outcomes in ways that span generations. In two papers, the economist from Chicago found that children who participated in a ground-breaking 1960s study still saw improvements in education, health and employment.


Heckman, who directs the Center for the Economics of Human Development at the University of Chicago, said the new papers offer more evidence that successful early education programs hinge on engaging with children and building social and emotional skills. Fostering those sorts of environments, he said, can lead to better life outcomes than trying to measure cognitive improvements. "For the first time, we have experimental evidence about how a case of early childhood education propagates across generations," says James Heckman.

The papers further expand on work originally done from 1962 through 1967, when late psychologist David Weikart designed the HighScope Perry Preschool in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Working with a sample of 123 low-income African American children, Weikart and colleagues randomly assigned 58 individuals to enter an enriched preschool environment, one that incorporated 2.5-hour weekday sessions and weekly 1.5-hour home visits with certified public school teachers. When compared with children of non-participants, the children of the Perry Preschoolers were more likely to complete high school without suspension (67 percent to 40 percent) and more likely to have full time jobs or be self-employed (59 percent to 42 percent). They also were less likely to have ever been arrested. The original participants also showed better health according to biomedical tests administered around age 55, and were also more likely to report their own children being healthy. The read the full research paper click here.

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