Investing in children early pays huge dividends

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More than 50 years ago, 123 African American 3- and 4-year-old children from low-income families in Ypsilanti, Michigan, participated in an experiment. About half attended a pioneering preschool program called Perry Preschool, while the other half — the control group — didn’t have the same opportunity. Remarkably, researchers have been able to follow the lives of most of these children since then. Their research found that Perry’s preschoolers had better academic achievement, higher incomes, and better health than the control group.

Mourad Antia [ USF ]

According to research by a Nobel Prize-winning economist and his colleagues, the children Perry’s preschoolers are also better off because of their parents’ experience. As Perry’s preschoolers aged, they became better educated and developed greater social-emotional skills than the control group. They became better parents and their the children grew up in more stable two-parent families that earned, on average, about $10,000 more per year, lifting many of them out of poverty.

Compared to offspring in the control group, these children of Perry’s preschoolers are themselves significantly less likely to have been suspended or assigned to special education, and more likely to have graduated from high school. secondary. They are more likely to be employed and healthy, and less likely to be divorced. (Their parents, the “preschoolers,” are now in their late 50s and early 60s.)

These results are consistent with the conclusions of the experiment conducted by the city of Boston in the late 1990s. The bottom line is that quality early education accelerates upward economic mobility between generations.

A study by a Federal Reserve Bank economist measuring the long-term effects of childhood Medicaid eligibility on adult health and economic outcomes found that Medicaid eligibility during infancy reduces the mortality and disability, increases employment and reduces disability benefits up to 50 years later. Medicaid saved the government more than its initial cost and saved more than 10 million quality-adjusted life years.

Another study found that when children who grew up in Medicaid-eligible households were in their twenties, they were more likely to have gone to college than those whose families, despite their similar economic circumstances, were unfortunate enough to live in a state where their families were not eligible for Medicaid. Now they earn more and pay more taxes.

A University of California, Berkeley researcher and her colleagues estimated that for every dollar spent on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the long-term benefits to the child, measured by increased income and increased life expectancy, amount to $56.

Other research studies found that SNAP had a decades-long effect on the health, self-sufficiency, and general well-being of children who came of age in these families. These children are more likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college, earn more, and avoid jail time.

It therefore goes without saying that helping children born into poverty is an excellent investment for the country. Fewer welfare benefits, more taxes collected, less crime and less incarceration. It would appear from these studies that these programs are wise spending because they will save the country money in the long run.

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Pro-lifers must add pro-quality of life to their list of aspirations. It is their responsibility to level the playing field for young children. True pro-lifers should do everything possible to ensure that all children have the chance to have a good life, shall we say.

Murad Antia, now retired, taught finance at Muma College of Business on the Tampa campus of the University of South Florida.

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