Economics, International economy, Pethokoukis

How early childhood intervention can help poor kids in developing nations

The summation and conclusion of Labor Market Returns to Early Childhood Stimulation: a 20-year Followup to an Experimental Intervention in Jamaica by Paul Gertler, James Heckman, Rodrigo Pinto, Arianna Zanolini, Christel Vermeersch, Susan Walker, Susan M. Chang, and Sally Grantham-McGregor. (Note that Heckman has been a big advocate of expanded pre-K education in the United States.) Here you go:

We find large effects on the earnings of participants from a randomized intervention that gave psychosocial stimulation to stunted Jamaican toddlers living in poverty. The intervention consisted of one-hour weekly visits from community Jamaican health workers over a 2-year period that taught parenting skills and encouraged mothers to interact and play with their children in ways that would develop their children’s cognitive and personality skills. We re-interviewed the study participants 20 years after the intervention. Stimulation increased the average earnings of participants by 42 percent. Treatment group earnings caught up to the earnings of a matched non-stunted comparison group. These findings show that psychosocial stimulation early in childhood in disadvantaged settings can have substantial effects on labor market outcomes and reduce later life inequality. …

This is the first study to experimentally evaluate the long-term impact of early childhood stimulation on economic outcomes in a low income country. Twenty years after the intervention was conducted, we fi nd that the average earnings of the stimulation group are approximately 42% higher than those of the control group. These findings show that simple psychosocial stimulation in very early childhood in disadvantaged settings can have a substantial eff ect on labor market outcomes. The magnitude of the estimated treatment e ffects can be put into perspective when the outcomes for the treated are compared to those for a non-stunted comparison group. The stunted children who received the stimulation intervention caught up to the earnings of a non-stunted comparison group. These results imply that stimulation interventions very early in life can compensate for developmental delays and thereby reduce inequality later in life. The estimated impacts found for Jamaica are substantially larger than the impacts reported for the US-based interventions. Early Childhood Development may be an especially eff ective strategy for improving long-term outcomes of disadvantaged children in developing countries.

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