NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Quantifying the Life-cycle Benefits of a Prototypical Early Childhood Program

Jorge Luis García, James J. Heckman, Duncan Ermini Leaf, María José Prados

NBER Working Paper No. 23479
Issued in June 2017
NBER Program(s):Children, Economics of Education

This paper quantifies the experimentally evaluated life-cycle benefits of a widely implemented early childhood program targeting disadvantaged families. We join experimental data with non-experimental data using economic models to forecast its life-cycle benefits. Our baseline estimate of the internal rate of return (benefit/cost ratio) is 13.7% (7.3). We conduct extensive sensitivity analyses to account for model estimation error, forecasting error, and judgments made about the empirical magnitudes of non-market benefits. We examine the performance of widely used, ad hoc estimates of long-term benefit/cost ratios based on short-term measures of childhood test scores and find them wanting.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23479

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