Subtitles and transcripts of podcasts

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Case For Preschool

The Friday Podcast: The Case For Preschool : Planet Money : NPR
(audio, 21 min, with the relevant part starting from 3:30 min)
In this great podcast, James Heckman, a Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago and a Nobel Prize winner, tells about randomized controlled studies on the benefits of investing in free preschool for kids. For every $1 we spend for high quality preschool for a disadvantaged kid, we get back 7-10% average annual return, equivalent to $30-$300 over the kid's lifetime.
A few highlights from the podcast:
Surprisingly, most job training programs for adults have zero or even negative effect. This is probably due to the lack of the so called "soft skills" among the participants, who come mostly from disadvantaged families. These skills, related to attention, control of temper, interaction with people, etc, can be acquired only when the person is very young (usually between 2 and 5 years).
In 1960s, a study named Perry Preschool Project was conducted in the Ypsilanti (Michigan) public school district. The researchers took 123 three year old kids from a disadvantaged area, and randomly assigned them to 2 groups. All of these kids initially did poorly on IQ tests, and half the families were on welfare. One group got free preschool for 2 years, 5 days per week, 2.5 hours per day, plus 1 weekly home visit by a teacher. The other group got no such free preschool and served as a control. The researchers followed up the kids into adulthood (they are almost 50 years old now).
The effects of free preschool were huge, relative to control group. At age 27 the participants had 44% higher high school graduation rate, and had two-fold lower teen pregnancy rate. At age 40, participants were half as likely to have served time in jail, had 42 percent higher median monthly income, and were 26 percent less likely to have received assistance such as welfare or food stamps.
These effects combine to give a pretty good return on investment (probably higher than most of us get on our investments). Note that this study does not address non-disadvantaged kids. Also, the Perry Preschool study is rather small - but there are other, larger studies that mostly confirm the above results.

1 comment:

  1. I had not heard of that study before. It brings some interesting facts to the table of how important young education is.you can't teach an old dog new tricks!

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