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Economic, Neurobiological and Behavioral Perspectives on Building America’s Future Workforce

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  • Eric Knudsen
  • James J. Heckman
  • Judy Cameron
  • Jack P. Shonkoff

Abstract

A growing proportion of the US workforce will have been raised in disadvantaged environments that are associated with relatively high proportions of individuals with diminished cognitive and social skills. A cross-disciplinary examination of research in economics, developmental psychology, and neurobiology reveals a striking convergence on a set of common principles that account for the potent effects of early environment on the capacity for human skill development. Central to these principles are the findings that early experiences have a uniquely powerful influence on the development of cognitive and social skills, as well as on brain architecture and neurochemistry; that both skill development and brain maturation are hierarchical processes in which higher level functions depend on, and build on, lower level functions; and that the capacity for change in the foundations of human skill development and neural circuitry is highest earlier in life and decreases over time. These findings lead to the conclusion that the most efficient strategy for strengthening the future workforce, both economically and neurobiologically, and for improving its quality of life is to invest in the environments of disadvantaged children during the early childhood years.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by World Economics, Economic & Financial Publishing, 1 Ivory Square, Plantation Wharf, London, United Kingdom, SW11 3UE in its journal World Economics Journal.

Volume (Year): 7 (2006)
Issue (Month): 3 (July)
Pages: 17-41

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Handle: RePEc:wej:wldecn:247

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Cited by:
  1. Orla Doyle & Colm Harmon & James J Heckman & Caitriona Logue & Seong Hyeok Moon, 2013. "Measuring Investment in Human Capital Formation: An Experimental Analysis of Early Life Outcomes," Working Papers 201310, School Of Economics, University College Dublin.
  2. Hazarika, Gautam & Viren, Vejoya, 2013. "The effect of early childhood developmental program attendance on future school enrollment in rural North India," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 146-161.
  3. Hendrik Thiel & Stephan L. Thomsen, 2009. "Noncognitive Skills in Economics: Models, Measurement, and Empirical Evidence," FEMM Working Papers 09037, Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, Faculty of Economics and Management.
  4. Gabriella Conti & James J. Heckman, 2012. "The Economics of Child Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 18466, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Greg Duncan & Katherine Magnuson & Ariel Kalil & Kathleen Ziol-Guest, 2012. "The Importance of Early Childhood Poverty," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 108(1), pages 87-98, August.
  6. James J. Heckman & Stefano Mosso, 2014. "The Economics of Human Development and Social Mobility," NBER Working Papers 19925, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Popli, Gurleen & Gladwell, Daniel & Tsuchiya, Aki, 2013. "Estimating the critical and sensitive periods of investment in early childhood: A methodological note," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 316-324.
  8. Weili Ding & Steven F. Lehrer, 2014. "Understanding the Role of Time-Varying Unobserved Ability Heterogeneity in Education Production," NBER Working Papers 19937, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Murasko, Jason E., 2013. "Physical growth and cognitive skills in early-life: Evidence from a nationally representative US birth cohort," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 267-277.

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