Investments in Early Childhood Education Pay Off, Now and Later

More and more people are discovering what we’ve known all along: that smart investments in educating our youngest children pay off. In this era of limited dollars and economic challenges, early childhood advocates are increasingly making a case that the benefits of early childhood investments don’t take a generation to yield fruit—they pay off right away.

In Kansas, local officials are pointing to a study released by America’s Edge that shows that every dollar invested in early child care and education generates $1.68 in short-term spending locally—a return on investment comparable to or better than in the state’s manufacturing, transportation, and construction industries. The Kansas study is one in a series that the nonprofit organization has done in states across the country to demonstrate that local investments in early childhood bolster the economy and make sound business sense.
In North Carolina, the North Carolina Partnership for Children makes the case that the availability of quality early childhood education services allows parents in just one county to earn $310 million in gross income. “Businesses in North Carolina lose millions each year to insufficient childcare options and unscheduled absences,” Harold G. Sellars, senior vice president of Mechanics & Farmers Bank and a North Carolina Partnership for Children board member, writes in a column in the Herald-Sun. “We don’t need to wait until 2030 to see the positive impact the early childhood system has on our economy.”
Of course, these short-term benefits only scratch the surface of the true benefits of early education, which often determine whether the students ultimately graduate and go on to college or the high-skilled jobs that ensure a region’s economic vitality.  That’s the end goal of our work in elementary schools across the country, where we have the opportunity to impact children’s lives by literacy instruction. The America’s Edge study of Kansas put a dollar figure on those long-term benefits—up to $16 for every dollar invested—but for each child given the opportunity to change the trajectory of their lives, the return is truly priceless.