October 4, 2004
Education, perseverance and motivation are all major factors determining productivity, both in the workplace and beyond it. The family is a major producer of these skills, which are indispensable for successful students and workers. Unfortunately, many families have failed to perform this task well in recent years. This retards the growth in the quality of the labor force. Dysfunctional families are also a major determinant of child participation in crime and other costly pathological behaviors. On productivity grounds alone, it appears to make sound business sense to invest in young children from disadvantaged environments. An accumulating body of evidence suggests that early childhood interventions are much more effective than remedies that attempt to compensate for early neglect later in life. Enriched pre-kindergarten programs available to disadvantaged children on a voluntary basis, coupled with home visitation programs, have a strong track record of promoting achievement for disadvantaged children, improving their labor market outcomes and reducing involvement with crime. Such programs are likely to generate substantial savings to society and to promote higher economic growth by improving the skills of the workforce.