The Jamaican Study: Early childhood education can compensate for developmental delays, boost earnings and reduce inequality

May 30, 2014

By Paul Gertler, James Heckman, Rodrigo Pinto, Arianna Zanolini, Christel Vermeersch, Susan Walker, Susan M. Chang and Sally Grantham-McGregor

James J. Heckman is the Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago,
a Nobel laureate in economics and an expert in the economics of human development.

High-quality early childhood development programs in the United States, such as home visiting, Abecedarian and Perry Preschool, have demonstrated positive economic and social effects. A new follow-up study of a low-cost early childhood intervention conducted in Jamaica from 1986 through 1988 by researchers at the University of the West Indies demonstrates the effectiveness of home visiting programs, parent-child interactions and cognitive and social stimulation for infants and toddlers in closing the achievement gap and producing long-term economic gains. Extremely disadvantaged children treated in the Jamaican Study earned 25% more as adults than disadvantaged children who received no treatment—and they earned as much as their more advantaged peers. The results suggest that early interventions may be especially effective for disadvantaged children in developing countries, and reinforce the value of high-quality home visiting programs for disadvantaged children in the United States.

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