1932

Abstract

This article compares early childhood enrichment programs that promote social mobility for disadvantaged children within and across generations. Instead of conducting a standard meta-analysis, we present a harmonized primary data analysis of programs that shape current policy. Our analysis is a template for rigorous syntheses and comparisons across programs. We analyze new long-run life-cycle data collected for iconic programs when participants are middle-aged and their children are in their twenties. The iconic programs are omnibus in nature and offer many services to children and their parents. We compare them with relatively low-cost, more focused home-visiting programs. Participants in programs that enrich home environments grow up with better skills, jobs, earnings, marital stability, and health, as well as reduced participation in crime. The long-run monetized gains are substantially greater than the costs of the iconic programs. A study of focused home-visiting programs that target parents enables us to isolate a crucial component of successful programs: They activate and promote the parenting skills of child caregivers. The home-visiting programs we analyze produce outcomes comparable to those of the iconic omnibus programs. National implementation of the programs with long-run follow-up that we analyze would substantially shrink the overall Black-White earnings gap in the United States.

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2023-09-13
2024-04-24
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