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Early Child Development Programs Can Make Children and Parents More Successful, Says Study

Young children wearing aprons are playing with a water table together in nursery.

Having a child, while rewarding, comes with a steep price. The average cost to raise a child to 18 is now $230,000 for a typical family. Diapers, formula, clothing, medical and dental – the expenses often make child care, including early development programs, out of reach for many parents.

Yet, a growing body of research suggests these programs are more beneficial than previously thought – especially for disadvantaged children and their families. And it has the biggest positive effect on women’s employment and pay, and the sons they raise.

According to a new study by Nobel-winning economist James Heckman and researchers at the University of Chicago and University of Southern California, early childhood development programs can deliver an annual return of 13 percent per child on upfront costs through better outcomes in education, health, employment, and social behavior in the decades that follow – a rate of return that’s comparable to returns on a savings account or the stock market. In one group analyzed, mothers earned more when children were in preschool, and the effect was still there after several decades.

When boys in this group reached age 30, they had earned on average $19,800 more annually than those in the control group. They also received an additional six months of education. Girls in this group received two more years of education and earned about $2,500 more than girls in the control group.

In an interview with UChicagoNews, Heckman said, “Investing in the continuum of learning from birth to age five not only impacts each child, but it also strengthens our country’s workforce today and prepares future generations to be competitive in the global economy tomorrow.”

In other words, early child development programs can make children and parents more successful.

Olga, a freelance writer and mother of three, is forever grateful to the women who ran the early child care program her children attended. “My…

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