CTs and Early Childhood Development

Rationale for early childhood interventions


Early childhood interventions can level the playing field for disadvantaged children.

Continued exposure to factors that put their development at risk increases inequality among children. The effects of early childhood interventions have been shown to last into a child’s adulthood, with benefits of early stimulation leading to improved educational achievement, higher earnings, and better labor market outcomes (for an example, see Gertler et al. 2011). Early childhood interventions make sense from a social perspective since they can decrease social, economic, and gender inequities. Therefore, early childhood interventions can decrease inequality and provide more equal opportunities for children to succeed in life, particularly within disadvantaged populations.

Early childhood interventions are more cost effective than interventions that try to address delays later in life.

Trying to fix developmental disadvantages later in life comes at a high cost-often greater than that of addressing the child’s development at a young age. The annual rate of return to early childhood development programs for disadvantaged children is estimated to be between 7-16 percent in the United States (Heckman et al. 2010), significantly higher than many remedial programs that try to address ingrained deficits once children are older. A simple graph depicting the returns to human capital investment, as demonstrated by Heckman (2006) illustrates this point clearly. Early childhood interventions can also be cost effective strategies in low- and middle-income countries. For instance, depending on the discount rate used, simulations have estimated that increasing preschool enrollment to 25 or 50 percent in low- and middle- income countries would have a 6.4 to 17.6 benefit-to-cost ratio (Engle et al. 2011).