Big Payoff from Pre School Programs

In a major study for the Upjohn Institute, Timothy J. Bartik calulates the macro economic impacts of high quality universal preschool education for the US,  based mainly on studies of the  impacts of a well-studied, high quality program (the Chicago Child-Parent Centre program, a half day program for four year olds with 2 teachers per 20 children.)

He estimates that the US economy wide return ($4 for every $1 invested in terms of the impact on the present value of real earnings)  greatly outweighs the impact of traditional business subsidy programs (0.65 cents return per $1 spent.) The central argument is that quality preschool education raises the quantity and quality of future labour supply. He concludes that investments in “human capital” can produce significant economic returns far in excess of traditional handouts to business.

Please could someone spread the news to “Canada’s New Government”-  Finance Minister Flaherty could surely use this in framing his productivity agenda.


  • Daycare is doubtlessly a good thing. It’s much less clear that a universal program is.

  • My sense of the studies I have seen is (1) yes, some (lower income) children benefit more than other (middle class) children from early childhood education programs but (2) the former benefit much more if they are in mixed income programs. ie targetting interventions by income/needs militates against the success of the program.

  • Yeah, ECE isn’t exactly the same thing as daycre, so this sounds like an idea worth pursuing. Of course, it’s hard to see what sort of program the feds could come up with that wouldn’t annoy the provinces. It wouldn’t make much sense to have a federal pre-k program that wasn’t co-ordinated with the existing kindergarten (or, for that matter, the existing pre-k) systems.

  • Has anyone done a study on the kids at home and what the investment would be? I can guarentee you its more than a 7/1 ratio..
    Why not help both, daycares and at home, would that not be the reasonable thing to do?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *