Benefits and costs of investments in preschool education: Evidence from the Child-Parent Centers and related programs

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We discuss the evidence on the effectiveness of preschool programs using results from three well-known intervention studies: the Chicago Child-Parent Centers, High/Scope Perry Preschool Program, and the Carolina Abecedarian Project. Results from cost-benefit analyses of other programs for younger and older children also are reported. Given that the Child-Parent Center Program is an established, large-scale preschool program for which a cost-benefit analysis has been recently completed, we focus on this program. We examine the longer-term effects in more detail and we investigate the robustness of estimates used in the cost-benefit analysis. Depending on the assumptions made, our results indicate that the benefit-cost ratio for the preschool program offered by the Child-Parent Centers ranges from $5.98-$10.15. We find strong evidence that the consistently positive economic returns of high-quality preschool programs exceed most other educational interventions, especially those that begin during the school-age years such as reduced class sizes in the elementary grades, grade retention, and youth job training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)126-144
Number of pages19
JournalEconomics of Education Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The CPC program provides comprehensive educational and family-support services to economically disadvantaged children and their parents beginning at age 3 and continuing until third grade for up to 6 years of intervention. The program began in the Chicago public schools in 1967 through federal funding from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Title I of the Act provides grants to local public school districts serving high concentrations of children from low-income families. After Head Start, the CPCs are the nation's second oldest federally funded preschool program. The 24 centers provide comprehensive services under the direction of the Head Teacher and in collaboration with the elementary school principal. Other primary staff in each center are the parent resource teacher, the school-community representative, bachelor's level classroom teachers, aides, nurses, speech therapists, and school psychologists (see Reynolds, 2000 ).

Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Educational economics
  • Human capital
  • Rate of return


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