by Maggie Probert
How many times have you visited the Web site of the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis? Probably not often. It’s an unlikely place to find discussion on early childhood education. But a growing group of economists is rattling cages about the high rate of return investments from early childhood programs have.
Who should make these investments? Take the poll on the Fed’s Web site. As I write this, 345 have responded. That may not comprise a large enough group to be representative of public opinion, but the types of people who responded to this survey should set off alarms! My guess is that most are financial professionals and in positions to influence financial policy.
So why haven’t they gotten the message that investing in early childhood programs yields extraordinary returns? A Nobel laureate in economics, Dr. James Heckman of the University of Chicago, estimates that the returns are 7 to 12 times the investment. The Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank has been touting the importance of investing in early childhood education programs, too. The St. Louis Federal Reserve is even sponsoring a public policy dialogue next month to discuss the implications of a widening achievement gap, lack of community leadership, and increased demand for community engagement on society. These are some impressive advocates.
So how come the message isn’t getting through?