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A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Early Childhood Intervention: Evidence from a Randomised Evaluation of a Parenting Programme


  • O'Neill, Donal

    () (National University of Ireland, Maynooth)


A number of researchers and policy makers have recently argued that the most effective way of dealing with long-run disadvantage and the intergenerational transmission of poverty is through early childhood intervention and in particular policies aimed at supporting the family in early childhood development. In this paper we carry out a randomised evaluation of one such programme aimed at improving the skills and parenting strategies of parents, particularly those who find their child's behaviour difficult or challenging. Our evaluation shows that the treatment significantly reduced behavioural problems in young children when measured 6 months after the intervention. Furthermore our detailed cost analysis, combined with a consideration of the potential long-run benefits associated with the programme, suggest that the long-run rate of return to society from this programme is likely to be relatively high.

Suggested Citation

  • O'Neill, Donal, 2009. "A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Early Childhood Intervention: Evidence from a Randomised Evaluation of a Parenting Programme," IZA Discussion Papers 4518, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4518

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. James Heckman, 2011. "Policies to foster human capital," Educational Studies, Higher School of Economics, issue 3, pages 73-137.
    2. Mickael Löthgren & Niklas Zethraeus, 2000. "Definition, interpretation and calculation of cost-effectiveness acceptability curves," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 9(7), pages 623-630.
    3. Carneiro, Pedro & Heckman, James J., 2003. "Human Capital Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 821, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. N/A, 1989. "Annual Report," Evaluation Review, , vol. 13(3), pages 320-320, June.
    5. David Madden & Anne Nolan & Brian Nolan, 2005. "GP reimbursement and visiting behaviour in Ireland," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 14(10), pages 1047-1060.
    6. Elisabeth Fenwick & Bernie J. O'Brien & Andrew Briggs, 2004. "Cost-effectiveness acceptability curves - facts, fallacies and frequently asked questions," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(5), pages 405-415.
    7. Andrew Briggs & Paul Fenn, 1998. "Confidence intervals or surfaces? Uncertainty on the cost-effectiveness plane," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 7(8), pages 723-740.
    8. Aaron A. Stinnett & John Mullahy, 1998. "Net Health Benefits: A New Framework for the Analysis of Uncertainty in Cost-Effectiveness Analysis," NBER Technical Working Papers 0227, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Andrew H. Briggs, 1999. "A Bayesian approach to stochastic cost-effectiveness analysis," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 8(3), pages 257-261.
    10. Colm Harmon & Brian Nolan, 2001. "Health insurance and health services utilization in Ireland," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 10(2), pages 135-145.
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    More about this item


    early intervention; parenting programme; randomised trial;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution

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