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Measuring Investment in Human Capital Formation: An Experimental Analysis of Early Life Outcomes

  • Orla Doyle
  • Colm Harmon
  • James J. Heckman
  • Caitriona Logue
  • Seong Moon

The literature on skill formation and human capital development clearly demonstrates that early investment in children is an equitable and efficient policy with large returns in adulthood. Yet little is known about the mechanisms involved in producing these long-term effects. This paper presents early evidence on the nature of skill formation based on an experimentally designed, five-year home visiting program in Ireland targeting disadvantaged families - Preparing for Life (PFL). We examine the impact of investment between utero to 18 months of age on a range of parental and child outcomes. Using the methodology of Heckman et al. (2010a), permutation testing methods and a stepdown procedure are applied to account for the small sample size and the increased likelihood of false discoveries when examining multiple outcomes. The results show that the program impact is concentrated on parental behaviors and the home environment, with little impact on child development at this early stage. This indicates that home visiting programs can be effective at offsetting deficits in parenting skills within a relatively short timeframe, yet continued investment may be required to observe direct effects on child development. While correcting for attrition bias leads to some changes in the precision of estimates, overall the results are quite similar.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19316.

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Date of creation: Aug 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19316
Note: CH TWP
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  1. Orla Doyle, 2012. "Breaking the Cycle of Deprivation: An Experimental Evaluation of an Early Childhood Intervention," Working Papers 201217, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  2. Joseph P. Romano & Azeem M. Shaikh & Michael Wolf, 2010. "Hypothesis Testing in Econometrics," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 2(1), pages 75-104, 09.
  3. Eric I. Knudsen & James J. Heckman & Judy L. Cameron & Jack P. Shonkoff, 2006. "Economic, Neurobiological and Behavioral Perspectives on Building America's Future Workforce," NBER Working Papers 12298, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. James Heckman & Seong Hyeok Moon & Rodrigo Pinto & Peter Savelyev & Adam Yavitz, 2010. "Analyzing social experiments as implemented: A reexamination of the evidence from the HighScope Perry Preschool Program," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 1(1), pages 1-46, 07.
  5. Cunha, Flavio & Heckman, James J., 2007. "The Technology of Skill Formation," IZA Discussion Papers 2550, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. repec:mpr:mprres:7046 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. LeCroy, Craig Winston & Krysik, Judy, 2011. "Randomized trial of the healthy families Arizona home visiting program," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(10), pages 1761-1766, October.
  8. Eric Knudsen & James J. Heckman & Judy Cameron & Jack P. Shonkoff, 2006. "Economic, Neurobiological and Behavioral Perspectives on Building America’s Future Workforce," World Economics, World Economics, Economic & Financial Publishing, 1 Ivory Square, Plantation Wharf, London, United Kingdom, SW11 3UE, vol. 7(3), pages 17-41, July.
  9. Joseph P. Romano & Michael Wolf, 2005. "Exact and Approximate Stepdown Methods for Multiple Hypothesis Testing," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 100, pages 94-108, March.
  10. Doyle, Orla & Harmon, Colm P. & Heckman, James J. & Tremblay, Richard E., 2009. "Investing in early human development: Timing and economic efficiency," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 1-6, March.
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