Childhood Support Programs Offer Long Term Benefits

Summary
An intervention program offering aid and services to children aged 3 to 26 from low-income families was carried out. The program included aid for preschool and school services. The results showed that the preschool program offered a net return to society of $10.83 for each dollar invested (18 percent annual return) and the school-age program showed a societal return of $3.97 for each dollar invested (10 percent annual return). The returns were seen in improved income of students later in life, tax returns and also avoidance of costs associated with the criminal justice system. The authors concluded that there is definite proof “that sustained programs can contribute to well-being for individuals and society.”

Introduction
Prevention programs have been shown to have long-term positive results. Early childhood interventions are commonly thought to be one of the finest and most beneficial childhood investments. The Child-Parent Center (CPC) Education Program is a government-aided early intervention in education that is conducted at the Chicago public schools, to help children from low-income families up to the age of 9. This is the first study examining the cost benefit analysis of such funding in adults up to the age of 26. This study attempted to look at the differences of such benefits in terms of family subgroups which included parent education, gender, neighborhood poverty, family risk status and length of participation.

Methodology
* The study followed 1,539 children from economically troubled families. These children were born in 1979 or 1980. Of these, 989 children attended preschool services in the Chicago program at 20 sites; 550 children did not attend the program at five sites.
* The records of the children and their families were obtained from public aid receipts, birth records and family criteria were noted from birth to 3 years of age.
* Costs were analyzed per child, as per the program spending, and benefits were analyzed using set parameters. These parameters included expenditure on child welfare, adult crime, mental health, lifetime earnings and substance abuse.

Results
* The results showed that those who participated since preschool had higher rates of high school completion (79.7 compared to 72.9 percent who were non-participants) and had longer years of education (12.1 compared to 11.8 percent).
* These participants were arrested less (13.3 compared to 17.8 percent), had higher health insurance coverage (76.7 compared to 66.6 percent) and lower rates of depressive illnesses between ages 22 and 24 (12.8 compared to 17.4 percent). They had lower incidence of drug abuse (14.3 compared to 18.8 percent) and 19 to 24 percent lesser daily smoking rates.
* Preschool participants incurred an average cost of $8,512 each. The return to society was $92,220. They saved most in crime-related expenditure, which was 46 percent of the savings.
* School-age participants incurred an average cost of $3,792 each. The return to society was $15,064. They garnered the most benefits in income and tax returns (54 percent).

Next steps/Shortcomings
The authors agree that since this study program involved extremely efficient training and services, the results would not be comparable to other similar funding arrangements. Some of the benefits could be erroneous, such as lifetime earnings being estimated based on the educational status of the participant, at the age of 25 and 26. Another shortcoming was the lack of consideration of other factors that may provide economic returns. Some studies have shown a gender difference in benefits. While some studies show these programs benefits males more than females, some others contradict the findings. Further studies to understand gender differences and other factors affecting benefits are suggested.

Conclusion
This study has shown that early intervention in education and childhood support programs may benefit an individual well into adulthood. These programs are cost effective and may reduce several ills of society including crime rates, drug abuse and mental illness. This study also points toward the benefits of interventions before beginning school. It also lays emphasis on effective school transition from kindergarten to higher grades. The results add to the proof that high-quality, early childhood programs have long-lasting positive effects. The authors conclude, “The accumulated literature shows that under modest assumptions, the impacts of upscaled and sustained programs can be positive and highly cost effective.”

For More Information:
Age 26 Cost–Benefit Analysis of the Child-Parent Center Early Education Program
Publication Journal: Child Development, February 2011
By Arthur J. Reynolds; Judy A. Temple; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.
Tags from the story
,