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The Long-Term Impact of High-Quality Early Learning Opportunities

long-term impact

Are there long-term outcomes of high-quality early education?

Yes, as the long-term studies listed below confirm, when children have access to high-quality early education, they benefit throughout their lives. They are ready for kindergarten, do better throughout their academic careers, become more productive workers, earn more over their lifetimes, are healthier and are far less likely to utilize the social safety net or commit a crime.

  • PERRY PRESCHOOL — Starting in the 1960s in Michigan, the Perry Preschool Study began tracking children who attended a high-quality early education program compared to those who did not. Those children, now well into adulthood, are still being tracked today. The study finds that, for children who experienced early education, the return on investment is between $7 and $12 for each $1 invested.
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  • ABECEDARIAN PROJECT — The Carolina Abecedarian Project began in the 1970s in North Carolina and primarily follows minority children. These students are still being tracked today. This study finds that for every dollar spent on high-quality programs for disadvantaged children, there is a 13% annual return on investment.
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  • OKLAHOMA — A study conducted by Georgetown University tracks students in Oklahoma, where an optional universal pre-K program has been available since 2001. Of the students there, those who went through the pre-K program have improved test scores, are more likely to enroll in honors courses, are less likely to have to repeat a grade and are less timid, more confident and more engaged in class.
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The commonality between the return on investment demonstrated through these three studies is the investment in high-quality early education, similar to the structure of Indiana’s On My Way Pre-K program, which ensures state dollars are only utilized at high-quality programs.

What is the return on investment of the on my way pre-k program?

According to an Indiana University study in 2016, Hoosiers can expect to see a 4-to-1 return on investment in the On My Way Pre-K program, a conservative estimate. While Indiana’s program is new and serves fewer than 4,000 children in 20 counties, the results from the initial five pilot counties are encouraging. Children were better prepared for kindergarten, and parents reported they were able to work more hours, find better jobs and seek additional educational opportunities as a result of the On My Way Pre-K program.


This is the fifth in a series of fact sheets Early Learning Indiana is releasing to help better arm advocates with the latest information and arguments. If you would like to print a copy of this fact sheet, please click here.

Along with previously published fact sheets, reports and other updates can be found here. Please share this information with other advocates and encourage leaders in your community to sign up here to receive these e-updates.

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