How Early Childhood Interventions Can Reduce Inequality: An Overview of Recent Findings

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Dec 1998
Early Childhood Interventions (ECI) are ideally designed to achieve a series of mutually reinforcing objectives with the overarching goal of helping to improve equality of opportunity for children in poverty. In this discussion the authors analize programs targeted to overcome some or all of the cognitive, emotional, and resource limitations that may characterize the environments of disadvantaged children during the first several years of life. Section II of this paper presents a review of findings that attempt to measure the short-term or immediate benefits of early childhood interventions. Section III reviews the literature that addresses the longer term benefits of early childhood interventions, such as program participants' improved school performance and earnings opportunities in later years, and a reduced probability for program participants to later engage in criminal or violent acts. Section IV summarizes the economic rationale for public support of ECI programs. In the final Section V we address some of the policy and operational issues involved in designing and implementing early childhood intervenion programs.