RAND, with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, recently published one of the most comprehensive examinations ever conducted on the benefits of early childhood programs.
The research team reviewed 115 different early childhood programs and found that nearly 90 percent of them had a positive effect on at least one child outcome, factors like health, cognitive achievement, behavior and emotion, and others. Nineteen of the programs had formal cost-benefit analyses, and most that did paid for themselves through benefits to participants, government, and other members of society.
Programs that had cost-benefit data typically returned between $2 and $4 for every dollar invested, but benefits can sometimes take decades to exceed costs. This can pose challenges for funding mechanisms that require short-term payoffs.
The authors conclude that policymakers can be highly confident that well-designed and implemented early childhood programs can improve the lives of children and families, and bring benefits beyond those who participate in them.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation wants every child in the United States to grow up healthy, right from the start. When a child gets a healthy start—and has the support they need to develop physically, socially, emotionally, and cognitively throughout childhood—they will be more prepared for the world they face as an adult.
View the full report here.