Early Childhood Education to Promote Health Equity: A Community Guide Economic Review
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Early Childhood Education to Promote Health Equity: A Community Guide Economic Review

Filetype[PDF-331.95 KB]

  • English

  • Details:

    • Alternative Title:
      J Public Health Manag Pract
    • Description:

      A previous Community Guide systematic review found that early childhood education (ECE) programs improve educational, social, and health-related outcomes and advance health equity because many are designed to increase enrollment for high-risk students. This follow-up economic review examines how the economic benefits of center-based ECE programs compare with their costs.

      Evidence Acquisition:

      Kay and Pennucci from the Washington Institute for Public Policy, whose meta-analysis formed the basis of the Community Guide effectiveness review, conducted a benefit–cost analysis of ECE programs for low-income children in Washington State. We performed an electronic database search using both effectiveness and economic key words to identify additional cost-benefit studies published through May 2015. Kay and Pennucci also provided us with national-level benefit-cost estimates for state and district and federal Head Start programs.

      Evidence Synthesis:

      The median benefit-to-cost ratio from 11 estimates of earnings gains, the major benefit driver for three types of ECE programs (i.e., state and district, federal Head Start, and model programs), was 3.39:1 (interquartile interval [IQI]: 2.48 to 4.39). The overall median benefit-to-cost ratio from seven estimates of total benefits, based on additional components besides earnings gains, was 4.19:1 (IQI: 2.62 to 8.60) indicating that for every dollar invested in the program, there was a return of $4.19 in total benefits.


      ECE programs promote both equity and economic efficiency. Evidence indicates there is positive social return on investment in ECE irrespective of the type of ECE program.

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