Can the government build a better generation ?

Children's experiences are more consequential than we ever thought. We know that the brain develops the most in the first five years of life. By age 6, 95% of a child's brain is already developed. By age 6! So these early years are very, very important. And of all people, not just parents, pediatricians and teachers, but economists are paying attention. Neural synaptic connections are occurring in a child's brain age zero to three at a rate of 700 a second. The worst fallacy in this business is to assume that the abilities, the motivations, the skills of people are fixed at birth - they are not. What happens in that 36-month period is important as far as whether a child is going to be trusting and curious, and active and able to interact with other people in a productive way ( raising children).

What I came to understand was that ability was multiple in nature, that you could actually start, even at the earliest years, shape the ability, and increase the possibilities of individuals for their life. So that became very exciting to me.  Here I am, at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, my expertise is pre-Civil War banking, I worried a lot about business cycles and financial crises, and unemployment and inflation. How does somebody with that background get involved with early childhood, prenatal to five? You have to figure out what's the best investment? It's going to be early childhood education.

Making sure these kids start healthy and ready to learn. Science has demonstrated that a child's earliest experiences are vital to building the foundation for life-long individual success in school and in life. We can put dollar values on almost anything. Economists are adding new data to this argument, studying two initiatives in particular: high-quality early care and preschool, calculating how much they cost, and how much they pay off to our economy. And they're worried. Not because we're spending too much, but because we're spending too little where it matters most.

You can make moral arguments for Higher Ed, for K-12, for reducing crime, for reducing pollution. But policy makers need more than moral arguments. We asked a very direct question that most economists or business people would ask: "What was the return on the investment?" The first study to catch the attention of Rolnick and other economists was from a high quality early childhood experiment for low-income children in Ypsilanti, Michigan, called Perry Preschool. Founded in 1962, Perry Preschool grew out of the spirit of that time - the growth of the civil rights movement, desegregation and equal opportunity. The Perry children had master's level teachers and low student-to-teacher ratios. Educators even visited the families at home every week ( raising children).

The children that were receiving the Perry intervention received three hours per day of a cognitively rich preschool program. They focus on things such as math, literacy, play-based approaches, focus on engaging their imagination and their own investment in their learning. The Perry kids were compared to a group of their peers, a control group, who weren't in the program. Both groups have been followed for 40 years. They found that the children that were in the high-quality program were less likely to be retained in the first grade, were less likely to need special ed,
were more likely to be literate by the sixth grade, graduate high school, get a job, pay taxes, and start a family ( raising children).

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