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Benefits of Early Childhood Interventions Across the World: (Under) Investing in the Very Young


  • Milagros Nores
  • Steven W. Barnett


Milagros Nores, Assistant Research Professor, National Institute for Early Education Research, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey (NJ, United States). Email: Address: 57 US Highway 1, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8554, United States.W. Steven Barnett, Board of Governors Professor and Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey (NJ, United States). Email: Address: 57 US Highway 1, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8554, United States.This paper uses a meta-analysis to review the evidence on the benefits of early childhood interventions. The authors also analyze how the revealed effects are correlated with characteristics of the corrective measures and with the target audience.A total of 38 contrasts of 30 interventions in 23 countries were analyzed. The paper focuses on studies applying a quasi-experimental or random assignment. Studies were coded according to: the type of intervention (cash transfer, nutritional, educational or mixed); sample size; study design and duration; country; target group (infants, prekindergarten); subpopulations of interventions; and dosage of intervention. Cohens D effect sizes were calculated for four outcomes: cognitive gains; behavioral change; health gains; and amount of schooling.A moderate progress has been revealed in each of the outcomes. The benefits are sustained over time. Interventions that have an educational or mixed (educational and stimulation, or care) component evidenced the largest cognitive effects, as compared to cash infusions or nutrition-specific interventions. We find children from different context and countries receive substantial cognitive, behavioral, health and schooling benefits from early childhood interventions, unlike children whose development is not supported or promoted. Direct care and education appear to be the most efficient interventions, especially for development of cognitive skills in early childhood.DOI: 10.17323/1814-9545-2012-1-200-228

Suggested Citation

  • Milagros Nores & Steven W. Barnett, 2012. "Benefits of Early Childhood Interventions Across the World: (Under) Investing in the Very Young," Educational Studies, Higher School of Economics, issue 1, pages 200-228.
  • Handle: RePEc:nos:voprob:2012:i:1:p:200-228

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cunha, Flavio & Heckman, James J. & Lochner, Lance, 2006. "Interpreting the Evidence on Life Cycle Skill Formation," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
    2. Jorge M. Aguero & Michael R. Carter & Ingrid Woolard, 2006. "The Impact of Unconditional Cash Transfers on Nutrition: The South African Child Support Grant," SALDRU Working Papers 8, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    3. Temple, Judy A. & Reynolds, Arthur J., 2007. "Benefits and costs of investments in preschool education: Evidence from the Child-Parent Centers and related programs," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 126-144, February.
    4. W. Steven Barnett, 2005. "Maximizing returns from prekindergarten education," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, pages 5-18.
    5. repec:oup:revage:v:29:y:2007:i:3:p:446-493. is not listed on IDEAS
    6. James J. Heckman & Dimitriy V. Masterov, 2007. "The Productivity Argument for Investing in Young Children," Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 29(3), pages 446-493.
    7. Barnett, W. Steven & Belfield, Clive R., 2006. "Early childhood development and social mobility," MPRA Paper 858, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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