A New Framework for Assessing the Benefits of Early Education

Sep 22, 2004
  • Description

This working paper is among a series of papers funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts through its "Advancing Quality Pre-K for All" initiative. The paper proposes that future preschool valuations devote appropriate attention to the related potential long-term social and economic benefits by utilizing a more comprehensive analytical framework. Such an approach would provide a clearer picture of the long-term social and economic benefits of early education that can help facilitate smart, targeted investments in preschool. The framework for evaluating investments in early childhood education should include the human capital benefits accruing directly to individuals, and the additional benefits these investments provide to families, communities, and society at large. Using a broad analytical framework to value prekindergarten enumerates the different ways that individual and societal benefits may be assessed, and can be benchmarked against existing cost-benefit studies on early education. Though current cost-benefit analyses are a necessary starting point for evaluating early education programs, some of the possible longer-run benefits that are more difficult to quantify are excluded by the typical cost-benefit analysis. Without a comprehensive look at the benefits of early education, its value will remain underestimated.