Timothy J. Bartik
Senior Economist
W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research

Marissa Zamudio
Early Childhood Investment Corporation, Diversity Specialist 

's Blog
<< Return to main blog

How do payoffs differ between early interventions and late interventions?
Posted on November 15, 2011 by timbartik

A recent paper, by Susan Dynarski, Joshua Hyman, and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, has received some attention in the early education community, and elsewhere. The paper is entitled “Experimental Evidence on the Effect of Childhood Investments on Postsecondary Attainment and Degree Completion”. In addition to an article by Maureen Kelleher at Education Week, I received an email from a prominent early education supporter who was concerned that this paper might reflect negatively on early childhood programs.

The article examines the long-run effects on educational attainment of the Tennessee Student /Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR) experiment. The STAR experiment lowered early elementary class size in kindergarten through third grade.

The article’s main conclusion is that STAR significantly increased college attendance and completion. The lower class sizes increased the percentage of those attending college by 2.7 percentage points, and the percentage of those completing college by 1.6 percentage points.

These significant effects occurred even though the test score effects of the STAR experiment tended to fade by middle school.  The early effects of STAR on test scores are better predictors of its long-run effects on college attendance than are later test score effects. This is similar to findings for many early childhood programs.  These early interventions appear to have some profound long-run effects on behavior that are not fully reflected in middle school and high school scores on standardized tests.

Why the concern from some early childhood supporters? The concern is with one small section of the paper. This section is entitled “Do Early Interventions Pay Off More Than Late Ones?” This section is explicitly addressed at the argument, sometimes made by Nobel-prize-winning economist James Heckman and his co-authors, that the rate of return to human capital investments is generally greater for earlier investments.

In the Dynarski/Hyman/Schanzenbach paper, they review the cost per additional student attending college for various policy interventions. These policy interventions include:  two preschool interventions, Head Start and the Abecedarian program; STAR; the Upward Bound program, which provides at-risk high school students with targeted instruction and counseling; college scholarship aid; help with completing financial aid applications.  The “cost per additional student” induced to attend college due to these policies are as follows:  Head Start, $133,000; Abecedarian, $410,000; STAR, $400,000; Upward Bound, $94,000; targeted scholarship aid, $21,000; help with completing financial aid applications, $1,000.  They conclude, based on this review, that “these results provide little support for Heckman’s assertion that early investments are the most cost-effective, at least if the desired effect is increased college attendance.”

To complement the authors’ analysis, I did some analysis using the most recent data on the Chicago Child Parent Center (CPC) program. CPC’s program design is similar to that of many state-financed pre-K programs. These recent data suggest a cost per additional student attending a four-year college of $224,000. (I divided the cost of the program per child, $8,512, by the program’s estimated effect of increasing the likelihood of students getting 0.5 credits or more from a four-year school by 3.8 percentage points.)

So, from these data, preschool appears to be potentially more cost-effective than early elementary class size reduction in raising college attendance. However, targeting special counseling, tutoring, or financial aid on at-risk high school students appears to be even more cost-effective in raising college attendance.

What should be said about these findings? First, as the authors note, these results focus on only one possible benefit of these programs: increased college attendance. The results might be quite different if we look more comprehensively at benefits.

For example, in benefit-cost analyses of early childhood programs, there are two kinds of benefits that loom large. The first is increased adult earnings. The second is reduced crime.

With respect to the first type of benefit, increased adult earnings, a consistent finding is that the effects of early childhood programs on adult earnings go well beyond what we would expect based on effects on educational attainment. For example, in analyses of the Perry Preschool Program, based on the program’s effects on educational attainment, we would only expect adult employment rates to increase by 2 or 3 percentage points. The actual observed increase in adult employment rates is 13 to 18 percentage points (see Table 11 in my 2006 paper).

Apparently, the increase in hard and soft skills due to early childhood programs increases the employability of former participants by more than we would expect based on number of years of school completed.  Among other things, this could be due to these programs’ effects in reducing crime among former participants. Obviously a criminal record is a significant impediment to employment and earnings, holding educational attainment constant.

Therefore, an important issue in analyzing the benefits and costs of these different interventions is how their benefit-cost ratios compare looking at all benefits and costs. For example, will targeted tutoring and scholarship aid for high school students have the same benefits in increasing earnings and reducing crime rates as is true for earlier interventions? We don’t know, but this seems doubtful. For example, by the time these high school programs intervene,  it will be more difficult to make a difference for students already involved in criminal activity. It seems likely that these high school interventions are more appropriate for more targeted groups of students who are high-risk, but have in other ways well-developed “soft skills”.

This brings up a second point. I don’t think it is the case that early interventions always trump late interventions. What is true is that early interventions are often capable of having more profound effects on a broader target group through a relatively straightforward intervention.

For example, as reviewed in chapter 7 of my book investing in Kids, I think some job training programs can have quite high rates of return. But these training programs have to be carefully designed to have close ties to employers with job openings, and have to be targeted at workers who already have many basic skills.

In contrast, preschool programs are fairly straightforward, and work for many students. Preschool in essence simply adds more learning time for students. If the preschool program has a reasonable curriculum and decent teachers, and a reasonable class size, it likely can affect many students from a variety of backgrounds.

Class size reduction also is a relatively straightforward intervention that benefits a wide variety of students.  Smaller class sizes mean less class disruptions, and hence more learning time, and more individual attention, hence more effective learning time. At early ages, many students can benefit from these changes.

As people age, they get more set in their habits and character, and harder to change. You can still invest and change their skills. But not everyone will be as open at later ages to such investments. Hence, the programs need to be more carefully designed and targeted.

For example, a well designed financial aid or counseling program may significantly help some students at modest costs. But there are likely to be whole groups of students for whom such an intervention will not work, because they are no longer readily open to such an intervention by the time they are in high school.

Because later interventions may need to be more tightly targeted on particular groups of students, this may limit the size of these programs at full-scale. Even with high benefit-cost ratios, a program with a smaller target group may not have as high net benefits when operated at full scale, compared to a program that can benefit broader groups. Tight targeting and more focus on specific barriers to success may also require more careful design, which is an additional challenge to maintaining program quality.

I don’t think early interventions and later interventions should be seen as being in competition. Rather, these programs should be seen as complements. I agree with Dynarski, Hyman, and Schanzenbach that “there are cost-effective programs at every point in the educational pipeline”. Earlier programs can have more profound effects on broader groups of students. But there will still be barriers to achievement by students at later ages that can be overcome by clever late interventions.  Both early and late interventions can pay off, but in different ways.

Timothy J. Bartik is a senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. His "Investing in Kids" blog, originally published at http://investinginkids.net/ appears here by permission.

Well done!

You have done really exceptional work for the kids. Microsoft Toolkit

This website has very good

This website has very good content. Thank you for the great article I did enjoyed reading it, I will be sure to bookmark your blog. Super Hide IP full

Microsoft Toolkit

Microsoft ToolkitVery entertaining blog. Thanks for sharing.

Thank you for sharing the

Thank you for sharing the link here. with lots of good information

wtfast key

Sketchup Pro license key

Sketchup Pro license key   I am here only due to your informative posts.

This is all helpful videos

This is all helpful videos for every person.How to get free wifi passwordFree wifi near meHow to download GTA 5



I like the points you’ve made. I agree with your point of view.<a href="http://freeappstorepc.com/windows-7-crack-premium-iso-full-version-32-464-bit/"> Windows 7 crack</a>

This is only the data I am

This is only the data I am discovering all over the place. A debt of gratitude is in order for your website, I simply subscribe your online journal. This is a decent blog.. How to Teach Your Child to Read

Much Appreciated!

Window 10 Product Keys:

To be able to benefit from high-quality features of Windows 10 Product Key you always desire a product key or serial step to activate your backup of windows 10. If perhaps you are using the official version of Windows 8 then you can free upgrade to windows 10

Excellent website you have

Excellent website you have here, so much cool information!.. Horny

Superb information it is.

Superb information it is. Download line for pczapya for pcviber for pcimo for pczapya for pc

Universal Keygen Generator

Thank you for the great article I did enjoyed reading it, I will be sure to bookmark your blog and definitely will come back from again. Universal Keygen Generator Download

Phenomenal and extremely

Phenomenal and extremely energizing site. Adoration to watch. Continue Rocking. Sage Herb Health Benefits

free crack soft

I really like this post because we can get some useful information from your blog site.


Universal adobe patcher appnee

Universal adobe patcher appneeI am very comfortable and pleased to come here. Thank you very much.

happy wheels

This is great websites, I visited some of them but I didn't know that Google offers free games.And this is I play free flash games in this websites.- happy wheels- impossible game- roll the ball

check cashing Lauderdale Lakes

It may be very onerous to mention once exactly ought to be pressured to cash your test. Usually it's going to extraordinarily tough to cash if it is no longer authentic hours. 

check cashing Lauderdale Lakes

Check Cashing

Cheers for the amazing talk about. Your current content features turned out your current efforts along with expertise you need within this discipline. Currently follow-up Check Cashing I like the idea looking at.

wonderful information.

Amazing article. it's the oldest and the most widely known activator produced by the Microsoft for the activation of the windowing system. Windows 10 Activator tool activates your Windows copy free of charge. 

vShare for iPhone

<a href="https://iosscoops.com/">Apple</a> finally released iOS 11 beta download profile for iPhone and iPad developers. The iOS 11 update is available to download. There is no need to register an iOS UDID to run the latest firmware.

tally erp 9 download

the content of this post is really very amazing tally erp 9 download with crack

Source Of Unlimited Copyright Images

well it's a useful post but it can be more effective if you used simple and precise words anyway thanks for sharing regards: img src

iOS Download

Apple finally released iOS 11 beta download profile for iPhone and iPad developers. The iOS 11 update is available to download. There is no need to register an iOS UDID to run the latest firmware.

iOS 11 beta 3 download

If you are into iOS community, you must have heard by now about the upcoming iOS 11 beta download for iPhone and iPad devices. Apple will reveal it during WWDC 2017 for developers. It will be available for developers only, but you can also install iOS 11.

crack softwares


This is the very great article.the content of this post is really very amazing.


geometric terrarium kit

great post to read

soundcloud to mp3 convrerter is great post to read

  Nice information, very


Nice information, very interesting. I'm very glad to find this site. vimeo video downloader

EaseUS Todo PCTrans Crack

I appreciate your working style at the end just my request is please share with us some more great post.  EaseUS Todo PCTrans Crack

Nova scotia student loan

Very good post. The way of thinking is simply great. nova scotia student loan

The post contains good content.

i am following your blog for long time its been good to see awesome content every time on your blo. Will update this on my website.

visual paradigm

I’m impressed with the special and informative contents, Thanks for sharing. visual paradigm

GlassWire Pro

Thanks for this useful article, waiting for this article like this again.  GlassWire Pro

Certified diamonds

Very interesting blog. Alot of blogs I see these days don’t really provide anything that I’m interested in, but I’m most definately interested in this one

Certified diamonds


So luck to come across your excellent blog. Your blog brings me a great deal of fun.. Good luck with the site. https://getcracksoftware.com/


tubemate download for android 4.2.2 free apk - is an application that supports downloading videos and watching videos on youtube


The site was so nice, I found out about a lot of great things. I like the way you make your blog posts. Keep up the good work and may you gain success in the long run.


Barcodes South Africa

Very interesting blog. Alot of blogs I see these days don’t really provide anything that I’m interested in, but I’m most definately interested in this one.

Barcodes South Africa

buy csgo ranked accounts

this is the very great article.the content of this post is really very amazing

buy csgo ranked accounts

floor fitter south east london

I’m impressed with the special and informative contents, Thanks for sharing.

floor fitter south east london

sword knot

This post is good enough to make somebody understand this amazing thing, and I’m sure everyone will appreciate this interesting things.

sword knot

Urgent Printing London

I like this site – its so usefull and helpfull.Pretty! This was an extremely wonderful article.

Urgent Printing London

Premier pest control

Much thanks for composing such an intriguing article on this theme. This has truly made me think and I want to peruse more.

premier pest control


The VidMate app for Android allows you to stream and download videos from a variety of sources, such as YouTube, Dailymotion, Vimeo, and Yodesi. 

Nose Doctor CA

Here at this site really the fastidious material collection so that everybody can enjoy a lot.  Nose Doctor CA

Bluestacks hd app player pro latest version

This post is good enough to make somebody understand this amazing thing, and I’m sure everyone will appreciate this interesting things.

Bluestacks hd app player pro latest version

Nice app

I truly loved this app since it could help me download paid apps for free, the best thing about tutuapp apk is that it does not require jailbreak or connect with apple ID, keeps anonymous, so a must have app.

japanese international shopping website

Its my pleasure to visit your superb web site that was full of entertainment and awsome. 

japanese international shopping website

Web development company dallas

Thanks a lot for sharing this informative blog. Thank you

web development company dallas