Early Years

December 11, 2002 2 min read

A Good Return

For every $1 spent on high-quality preschool, society receives a $4 return, concludes a longitudinal study recently released by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.

Read the study, “A Benefit-Cost Analysis of the Abecedarian Early Childhood Intervention,” from the National Institute for Early Education Research. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

The research shows that when young children receive nurturing care in small groups from well-trained teachers, their mothers are able to find better-paying jobs and earn more in their lifetimes.

In addition, the children who receive such care tend to earn higher salaries as adults—on average, $143,000 more over their lifetimes than their peers who did not receive such services.

Those children are also less likely to require special education programs, and they are less likely to smoke as adults, typically saving $164,000 in health costs over the course of a lifetime, the study found.

“Over time, offering high-quality early education to all children doesn’t cost Americans a penny,” argued W. Steven Barnett, the co-director of the institute and an author of the study. “America could vastly expand and improve early care and education while saving money in the long run.”

For the study, Mr. Barnett and Leonard N. Masse, a research fellow at the institute, conducted a cost-benefit analysis of the Carolina Abecedarian Project, a landmark demonstration project in the early 1970s involving 111 children from low-income families in North Carolina. The children began as infants in full-day, year-round child care, and some services continued until they were age 8. Follow-up studies were conducted when the participants were 15 and 21.

Corporate Priority

Some of America’s leading companies have banded together to focus on improving working parents’ access to high-quality early- learning and after-school programs and strengthen the skills of those who teach and care for children.

More information is available online at

Corporate Voices for Working Families Inc. involves 32 companies, such as Marriott International, the IBM Corp., Merrill Lynch & Co., Johnson & Johnson, and AOL Time Warner.

The coalition intends to work with federal, state, and local governments to “fill an important gap in the national policy debate about the community supports needed to sustain working families.”

The companies bring experience in meeting the needs of their own employees.

—Linda Jacobson

A version of this article appeared in the December 11, 2002 edition of Education Week