Preschool education, educational attainment, and crime prevention: Contributions of cognitive and non-cognitive skills

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We investigated the extent to which cognitive and non-cognitive skills accounted for the measured links between participation in preschool intervention and high school completion, highest grade completed, and incarceration history in early adulthood. Using data from the Chicago Longitudinal Study, an on-going 20-year investigation of the effects of the school-based Child-Parent Center early intervention program for over 1500 children, we assessed the contribution of school readiness and achievement test scores up to age 14 and remedial education as well as measures of social adjustment, motivation, educational expectations, problem behavior, and juvenile arrest. Hierarchical regression analysis indicated that when assessed separately, cognitive factors accounted for 42% of the preschool effect on high school completion, 37% on highest grade completed, and 23% on incarceration history by age 24 while non-cognitive factors accounted for, respectively, 36%, 45%, and 59%. Together, cognitive and non-cognitive factors explained 46%, 51%, and 59% of the main effect of preschool participation. The set of cognitive skills made greater value-added contributions to educational attainment while non-cognitive skills made greater value-added contributions to incarceration history. Our findings support the important role of test scores, school performance, and social and motivational factors in explaining the effect of preschool participation on economically important indicators of well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1054-1063
Number of pages10
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this project has been provided by NIH grant RO1HD034294 , the University of Wisconsin Graduate School , and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (No. 2003-0035 ).


  • Educational attainment
  • Longitudinal effects
  • Preschool
  • Prevention


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