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Labor Market Returns to Early Childhood Stimulation: a 20-year Followup to an Experimental Intervention in Jamaica

  • Paul Gertler
  • James Heckman
  • Rodrigo Pinto
  • Arianna Zanolini
  • Christel Vermeersch
  • Susan Walker
  • Susan M. Chang
  • Sally Grantham-McGregor

We find large effects on the earnings of participants from a randomized intervention that gave psychosocial stimulation to stunted Jamaican toddlers living in poverty. The intervention consisted of one-hour weekly visits from community Jamaican health workers over a 2-year period that taught parenting skills and encouraged mothers to interact and play with their children in ways that would develop their children's cognitive and personality skills. We re-interviewed the study participants 20 years after the intervention. Stimulation increased the average earnings of participants by 42 percent. Treatment group earnings caught up to the earnings of a matched non-stunted comparison group. These findings show that psychosocial stimulation early in childhood in disadvantaged settings can have substantial effects on labor market outcomes and reduce later life inequality.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19185.

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Date of creation: Jun 2013
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Publication status: published as Science 30 May 2014: Vol. 344 no. 6187 pp. 998-1001 DOI: 10.1126/science.1251178 Report Labor market returns to an early childhood stimulation intervention in Jamaica Paul Gertler1,2,*, James Heckman3,4,5, Rodrigo Pinto3, Arianna Zanolini3, Christel Vermeersch6, Susan Walker7, Susan M. Chang7, Sally Grantham-McGregor8
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19185
Note: CH DEV ED LS
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  1. Flavio Cunha & James Heckman & Susanne Schennach, 2010. "Estimating the technology of cognitive and noncognitive skill formation," CeMMAP working papers CWP09/10, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
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  6. Borghans, Lex & Duckworth, Angela Lee & Heckman, James J. & ter Weel, Bas, 2008. "The Economics and Psychology of Personality Traits," IZA Discussion Papers 3333, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Almlund, Mathilde & Duckworth, Angela Lee & Heckman, James & Kautz, Tim, 2011. "Personality Psychology and Economics," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
  8. Heckman, James J., 2008. "Schools, Skills, and Synapses," IZA Discussion Papers 3515, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  12. Paxson, Christina & Schady, Norbert, 2005. "Cognitive development among young children in Ecuador : the roles of wealth, health and parenting," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3605, The World Bank.
  13. James J. Heckman & Seong Hyeok Moon & Rodrigo Pinto & Peter A. Savelyev & Adam Yavitz, 2010. "Analyzing Social Experiments as Implemented: A Reexamination of the Evidence From the HighScope Perry Preschool Program," NBER Working Papers 16238, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. James Heckman, 2000. "Policies to Foster Human Capital," Working Papers 0028, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  15. Joseph P. Romano & Michael Wolf, 2003. "Stepwise Multiple Testing as Formalized Data Snooping," Working Papers 17, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  16. James J. Heckman & Tim D. Kautz, 2012. "Hard Evidence on Soft Skills," NBER Working Papers 18121, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Gerard J. van den Berg & Maarten Lindeboom & France Portrait, 2006. "Economic Conditions Early in Life and Individual Mortality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 290-302, March.
  18. Sharon Maccini & Dean Yang, 2009. "Under the Weather: Health, Schooling, and Economic Consequences of Early-Life Rainfall," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 1006-26, June.
  19. Hoyt Bleakley, 2007. "Disease and Development: Evidence from Hookworm Eradication in the American South," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(1), pages 73-117.
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