More research cites lasting benefits of preschool

A new study about the benefits of preschool for low-income children is making headlines today -- but it's old news to us. A pile of research going back more than a decade have shown that public investments in early care and education, including but not exclusively preschool, give children a lifelong boost and bring long-term cost savings to society.

This new study, published in the journal Science, tracked more than 1,000 low-income children in Chicago for up to 25 years. It found that the children in the group that had attended preschool did better in school, earned more as adults, and committed fewer crimes. It is notewory because of its size as well as the time span -- similar studies on a smaller scale have shown similar results.

Given that these were children growing up in very low-income, at-risk communities, with many factors that influenced their lives, the differences between the preschool and non-preschool groups are not exactly staggering, but they are significant.

  • 80% of the preschool group finished high school versus 75% of the non-preschool group.
  • 28% of the the preschool group had skilled jobs requiring post-secondary training, versus 21% of the other group.
  • The average annual income for the preschool group was about $11,6000 -- again, not exactly staggering, but more than the $10,800 that the other group earned on average.  
  • 14% of the preschool group abused drugs in adulthood versus 19% of the other group.
  • 48% of the preschool group had been arrested in adulthood versus 54% of the others.

The lead researcher of the new study, Arthur Reynolds of the University of Minnesota, cites the tremendous cost-benefits of preschool to society -- at least $90,000 in benefits per child when you add up increased earnings, tax revenue, less crime and reduced need for social services.

Read the DC Action fact sheet for more information on the benefits of early care and education.

Here's a handy summary of previous studies from the National Conference of State Legislatures.