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Can Early Intervention have a Sustained Effect on Human Capital?

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  • Orla Doyle

    (School of Economics & Geary Institute for Public Policy, University College Dublin)

Abstract

Evidence on the sustained effect of early intervention is inconclusive, with many studies experiencing a dissolution of treatment effects once the program ends. Using a randomized trial, this paper examines the impact of Preparing for Life (PFL), a pregnancy to age five home visiting and parenting program, on outcomes in middle childhood. We find little evidence of cognitive fade-out at age nine, with significant treatment effects on cognitive skills (0.67SD) and school achievement tests (0.47-0.74SD) that are of a similar magnitude to those observed at the end of the program. There is no impact on other school outcomes and earlier effects for socio-emotional skills are no longer evident. While about 50 percent of the sample is retained at age nine, the treatment groups are still balanced on all key baseline characteristics and the results are robust to inverse probability weighting. Mediation analysis suggests that ~46 percent of the treatment effect on cognitive skills is explained by improvements in early parental investment. This study demonstrates that boosting children’s early cognitive skills can reduce school-age inequalities five years after program completion, yet continued investment may be needed to break long-standing inequalities in other dimensions of skills.

Suggested Citation

  • Orla Doyle, 2020. "Can Early Intervention have a Sustained Effect on Human Capital?," Working Papers 202001, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucd:wpaper:202001
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. James Heckman & Seong Hyeok Moon & Rodrigo Pinto & Peter Savelyev & Adam Yavitz, 2010. "Analyzing social experiments as implemented: evidence from the HighScope Perry Preschool Program," CeMMAP working papers CWP22/10, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    2. James J. Heckman & Margaret L. Holland & Kevin K. Makino & Rodrigo Pinto & Maria Rosales-Rueda, 2017. "An Analysis of the Memphis Nurse-Family Partnership Program," NBER Working Papers 23610, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Orazio Attanasio & Sarah Cattan & Emla Fitzsimons & Costas Meghir & Marta Rubio-Codina, 2020. "Estimating the Production Function for Human Capital: Results from a Randomized Controlled Trial in Colombia," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 110(1), pages 48-85, January.
    4. Douglas Almond & Janet Currie & Valentina Duque, 2018. "Childhood Circumstances and Adult Outcomes: Act II," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 56(4), pages 1360-1446, December.
    5. 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.
    6. Doyle, O. & Harmon, C. & Heckman, J.J. & Logue, C,; & Moon, S.H., 2013. "Measuring Investment in Human Capital Formation: An Experimental Analysis of Early Life Outcomes," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 13/18, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
    7. John Horn, 1965. "A rationale and test for the number of factors in factor analysis," Psychometrika, Springer;The Psychometric Society, vol. 30(2), pages 179-185, June.
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    11. James Heckman & Rodrigo Pinto & Peter Savelyev, 2013. "Understanding the Mechanisms through Which an Influential Early Childhood Program Boosted Adult Outcomes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(6), pages 2052-2086, October.
    12. Freedman, David & Lane, David, 1983. "A Nonstochastic Interpretation of Reported Significance Levels," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 1(4), pages 292-298, October.
    13. Orla Doyle & Nick Fitzpatrick & Judy Lovett & Caroline Rawdon, 2015. "Early intervention and child health: Evidence from a Dublin-based randomized controlled trial," Working Papers 201505, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
    14. 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, July.
    15. Doyle, Orla & Fitzpatrick, Nick & Lovett, Judy & Rawdon, Caroline, 2015. "Early intervention and child physical health: Evidence from a Dublin-based randomized controlled trial," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 19(C), pages 224-245.
    16. Douglas Almond & Janet Currie, 2011. "Killing Me Softly: The Fetal Origins Hypothesis," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(3), pages 153-172, Summer.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Early childhood intervention; cognitive skills; socio-emotional and behavioral skills; randomized control trial; school-age inequalities.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • I26 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Returns to Education
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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