Economist James Heckman has spent decades studying and documenting the lasting benefits of high-quality education for children in their earliest years. He is a strong advocate for investment in programs that foster early cognitive and social development as a means for reducing inequity and increasing productivity across the country. The link between the increase of high-quality education in early childhood and the reduction of inequality seems so clear that he calls it the Heckman Equation.
Just a few days ago, the prestigious journal Science published his research team’s latest findings. The work follows up on the Carolina Abecedarian Project (ABC), which was started over 40 years ago to explore the impact of high-quality early care and education. From infancy to age five, participants received high-quality, full-day care and education, including topics on health and nutrition. The study followed up at five later points in time spanning older childhood and early adulthood.
The results show significant positive differences in health-related behaviors and outcomes for those who attended the ABC program three decades later, as compared to age-mates also tracked by the study but who did not receive such education.
Many of us have few, if any, specific memories of our own formative years — the period of life during which the intervention took place. Yet, experiences between infancy and age five stuck with the children and continued to shape their health-related decisions as they entered kindergarten, grade-school, and adulthood, and beyond, resulting in lower risks for common diseases and therefore lower health-care needs.
That’s the power of getting off to the right start!
The NGPM team also feels strongly about investing in high-quality early education for every child, and we’re happy to have the opportunity to research how to best do this in our technology-infused world!