Five Surprising Facts About Early Childhood Education

1. Preschool can help combat crime, teen pregnancy, and high school dropout rates. When children have the benefit of a high-quality early childhood education, they make cognitive and social gains that prepare them to start school. These foundational skills allow them to build on their learning and knowledge through school and into adulthood. As a result, a child without an early childhood education is25 percent more likely to drop out of school, 40 percent more likely to become a teenage parent, and 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime.

2. Early childhood education has a better return on investment than the stock market. Some policymakers worry about the upfront cost of early childhood education. However, studies show that early childhood education is one of the best investments we can make—and that includes investments in the financial market. The estimated return on investment for high quality early childhood education is ten percent. In comparison, the average return on investment in the stock market is 7.2 percent.

Why does early childhood education pay off so well? Children who participate need fewer services over the course of their lifetime. The benefits show up almost right away, with reduced need for special education and grade retention, which costs taxpayers an estimated $7,500 per child. Over time, we reap benefits when these children become adults and need fewer public benefits and are less likely to be incarcerated.

3. The U.S. lags behind almost every other country when it comes to preschool, including Mexico, Chile, and Russia. When it comes to access to high-quality preschool, the U.S. is getting beat by virtually every other developed country, including Mexico, Chile, Russia, and New Zealand. Each of these countries—and most of Western Europe and Scandinavia—enroll a greater proportion of four year olds in preschool and invest more in early childhood education relative to the size of their economies. If the U.S. wants to compete in a global market and continue its role as an economic and military superpower, we must keep up with other countries when it comes to early childhood education.