What are Early Childhood Program Benefits?

The Healthcare Triage YouTube series hosted by Dr. Aaron Carroll continues with another video that looks at the Rand study, “Investing Early – Taking Stock of Outcomes and Economic Returns from Early Childhood Programs,” a review of 115 early learning programs: Do Early Childhood Programs Pay Off?

As we previously noted in our post of the first two videos in the series, Dr. Carroll is a Professor of Pediatrics and Associate Dean for Research Mentoring at Indiana University School of Medicine. He is also the director of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research.

In “Do Early Childhood Programs Pay Off?”, Dr. Carroll compares early childhood interventions — like learning — to other health care preventions that have extended life expectancies at birth: “If we do for children, and the effects last a life time, we may be able to make a lot of the money we spent investing pay off.”

He notes three main ways to measure the economic impact of interventions:

  • Cost Analysis
  • Cost Effectiveness Analysis
  • Benefit Costs Analysis

Of course, Dr. Carroll notes many other potential benefits measures — as well as some of the challenges that can accompany the various approaches. One importnat note: While program costs can vary significantly, of programs that offered Benefit Costs Analysis, “all of the early childhood education programs had ratios at least 2.8 or higher, capping out at 4.”

Dr. Carroll offers a great deal of additional useful analysis and notes, “Monetary benefits come from multiple sources, and we should consider them all when talking about whether these programs are worth it. The single biggest source of benefits come from the added earnings of parents or children when they become adults — which can take decades. Most of the benefits are economic, not health related.”

His bottom line: “Early childhood programs can generate economics benefits that outweigh the costs. That means they are good investments.”


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