We now briefly review the findings from a small set of early childhood intervention studies that look at such long-term outcomes as criminal activity, earnings, and the use of cash welfare assistance. The Syracuse Family Development Research Program was a small program that enrolled slightly more than 200 children and followed them for 5 years. It was one of the earlier programs, beginning in 1969. The intervention included infant and preschool enrollment in Syracuse University’s preschool program as well as direct provision of information on raising children, nutrition, etc. to the parents. The follow-up analysis found that by age 15, 6 percent of the experimental group had been referred to probation as compared to 22 percent of the controls. Through based on very small numbers, the very large differences provide some evidence that the combined interventions had a positive effect on the reduction of crime (Lally, Mangione and Honig, 1988).
Perhaps the best-known early intervention project is the Carolina Abecedarian Project (Campbell and Ramey, 1995; Ramey, Campbell, and Blair, 1998; Ramey et al., in press). This clinical trial began at 6 weeks postpartum and included (1) a randomized control group (n = 23) that received family support social services, pediatric care, and child nutritional supplements, (2) an experimental group (n = 25) that received the services of a high-quality center-based intervention for the first 5 years and additional educational support services from kindergarten to grade two, (3) an experimental group (n = 24) that received only the early intervention, and (4) an experimental group (n = 24) that received only the K-2 educational support. IQ scores at 8 years and 12 years were significantly higher for preschool participants than for other children. Furthermore, children who had participated in the preschool program had higher scores on tests of reading and mathematics achievement at 8 and 12 years. They were less likely to be retained a grade at ages 8, 12, and 15, and they were also less likely to be placed in special education. The most recent follow-up report from this research team (Early Learning, Later Success: the Abecedarian Study, 1999) included findings to 21 years. Intervention children were reported to be older, on average, when their first child was born and to have been more likely to attend a four-year college.
The Perry Preschool Project (Schweinhart, Barnes, Weikart, et al., 1993) involving 123 black children has reported long-term follow-up to 27 years. The experimental group consisted of 45 children who entered the preschool program at age 3 and an additional 13 who entered at age 4, attending a half-day center-based program and receiving teacher home visits. The researchers report that the experimental group had a somewhat lower probability of ever being arrested by age 27 (57 versus 69 percent), but a larger difference in the average number of lifetime arrests by age 27 (2.3 versus 4.6). Differences in the proportion receiving public assistance by age 27 were also large: 15 compared to 32 percent. Mean earnings were far higher for the experimental group than the control group at age 27: monthly reported mean earnings were $1,219 for experimentals, $766 for controls.
Participation in the Chicago Child-Parent Centers (CPC) also has been related to long-term beneficial effects (Reynolds et al., 2000). This project has followed the educational and social development of 1,539 African-American (93 percent) and Hispanic (7 percent) children as they grew up in high-poverty neighborhoods in central city Chicago. Some of the children (n = 989) participated in government-funded (Title I) early childhood programs in 1985-1986, whereas others did not (n = 550). A rich array of data, including surveys from teachers, parents, school administrative records, standardized tests, and the children themselves have been collected since that time. Children who participated in the CPC preschool programs obtained significantly higher math and reading achievement test scores at 5, 8, and 14 years, even after controlling for family risk status, child gender, and later program participation. At age 20, participants in the CPC were more likely to have completed high school and to have low rates of juvenile crime.
Even though only a few studies have followed children into adulthood, it is notable that all find some evidence of long-term gains.
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