Early Education & Economic Development

Deciding if and when your child should enter preschool is an important decision for any parent. A child’s first years have an enormous impact on their future, and a lack of access to positive learning environments can be detrimental. Unfortunately, the topic of early care and education doesn’t always receive the attention it deserves. An investment in early care and education not only yields mental, academic, and socioeconomic benefits for the child, it encourages future economic growth.

Early care and education lay the foundation for future academic milestones like high school graduation. Though the alphabet song and macaroni necklaces don’t seem necessarily intellectual, 90% of the brain is developed from birth to age 5, so simple activities like these are an integral part of the learning process (Garmon-Brown). Children who miss out on such experiences may enter kindergarten at a deficit, and children who enter kindergarten at a deficit are half as likely to read proficiently by third grade. Students who can’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school (Garmon-Brown). Though it may be hard to see the connection between preschool activities and teenage academic achievement, research shows there’s a clear link.

Additionally, quality early education has the power to neutralize socioeconomic inequalities that lead to decreased academic achievement. Children who live in poverty are often subject to prolonged periods of instability which create stress and affect early brain development (Garmon-Brown). Early education programs may offer some respite from the stress of growing up poor. According to NPR, “Researchers who study pre-K education often find that children who have had early experiences of economic scarcity and insecurity gain more from these programs than their more advantaged peers” (Sanchez). Though children who grow up in economically stable households still benefit from pre-K programs, children of low-income backgrounds show the most drastic improvements.

The socioeconomic and academic benefits of quality early education translate into large-scale economic benefits over the years. Participation in preschool programs decreases an individual’s likelihood of needing public assistance or coming in contact with the criminal justice system. Also, adults who were enrolled in preschool programs typically earn $2,000 more per month than adults who were not enrolled (Garmon-Brown). Federal Reserve official Arthur J. Rolnick estimates a 12% return on investment (after inflation) for the value of childhood development programs. Additionally, access to early care allows parents to seek and retain employment, boosting household income. Access to preschool programs improves both parents’ and children’s financial futures.

Early care and education programs come in many shapes and sizes, but the need for some kind of positive learning environment before age five is apparent. Exposure to such programs results in an increased likelihood to complete high school, earn more money, and stay out of the criminal justice system. The benefits of early education are especially pronounced for children of low-income backgrounds. An investment in children is an investment in the future— the future of education and the future of the economy.


  • Garmon-Brown, Ophelia. Opportunity Task Force Report. Leading on Opportunity, 2017, Opportunity Task Force Report, www.leadingonopportunity.org/report/chapter-3.
  • Sanchez, Claudio. “Pre-K: Decades Worth Of Studies, One Strong Message.” NPR, NPR, 3 May 2017, www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/05/03/524907739/pre-k-decades-worth-of-studies-one-strong-message.