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.