Tag Archives: James Heckman

Start a social justice movement

We often equate the value of early childhood education with school readiness and healthy development but rarely with social justice.

In a New York Times editorial, two-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Nicholas D. Kristof, did just that! In a piece titled “Occupy the Classroom,” Kristof  suggests that quality early childhood education addresses the “structural inequality that many young children never get the skills to compete.”

He states, “One common thread, whether I’m reporting on poverty in New York City or in Sierra Leone, is that a good education tends to be the most reliable escalator out of poverty. Whether in America or Africa, disadvantaged kids often don’t get a chance to board that escalator.”

Wrong way

He cites scholars and economists, including James Heckman who spoke at the Missouri Business Leaders Summit sponsored by Parents as Teachers, who note the economic value of early childhood education. This isn’t new information; we’ve known this for decades. The question is, do we have the collective will to reach out to families and close the achievement gap—not just at kindergarten but throughout life—for disadvantaged children?

Will you spread this message and help create a movement for social justice for children?

Photo credit: xcode’s photostream under Creative Commons license

Parents as Teachers does that!

For 25 years, Parents as Teachers has studied, collected and shared with parents across the country information to help them get their young children off to a good start.  

MARCH 2009
study of 7,000 Missouri kindergarteners by Yale University’s Dr. Edward Zigler was released in the Journal of Primary Prevention

Its finding? “The first nine months are the most critical. That’s why home-visiting programs that start at birth are needed.” 

Parents as Teachers does that!

Nobel Laureate Economist James Heckman told Missouri business leaders, “If society intervenes early enough, it can raise cognitive and socio-emotional abilities and the health of disadvantaged children. Early interventions promote schooling, reduce crime, foster workforce productivity and reduce teenage pregnancy.”
 His main point? “These interventions are estimated to have high benefit-cost ratios and rates of return in the range of 7-10% per annum.
Parents as Teachers does that!

The Millennium Cohort Study of 15,000 children was released, highlighting the importance of early screening for developmental delay at ages under one year.
Its finding? “Children who do not reach key developmental milestones at just nine months old are far more likely to struggle at school.”

Parents as Teachers does that!



The economics of childhood: a Nobel Laureate makes the case for early public investment

The economic returns on early investments are high, Professor James Heckman, Nobel Laureate economist from the University of Chicago, told a group of Missouri business leaders at a high level summit in St. Louis last week.

But it’s not just cognitive abilities we should be focusing on, he said. While intelligence is an important determinant of socioeconomic success, it’s social-emotional “soft skills” like perseverance, attention, motivation and self confidence that really move children toward life success.

From Prof. James Heckman's presentation 11/16/09 to MO Business Leaders Summit

Sure, remedial programs for teens and young adults can be effective, but they’re much more costly in producing the same results (e.g., skill development). He laid out a strong case for public support for early intervention…specifically, early childhood interventions for disadvantaged children.

What constitutes ‘disadvantaged’? According to Heckman, it’s the quality of parenting. John Medina, who spoke to an audience of 1,300 at the Parents as Teachers conference the week before, agrees. “Stressed brains don’t learn the same way as non-stressed brains,” he says. Children who grow up in households under constant stress—whether from bickering parents, economic constraints, alcoholism/drug addiction—do not learn as well as others.

Organizations like Parents as Teachers that provide home visits can affect the lives of parents, creating permanent change in the home environment. And that’s a powerful return an anyone’s investment.

Parenting our way back to economic recovery

Building a plan for economic recovery is a lot like parenting: there are many ways to go about it, but the best outcomes are the result of  good advice and a strong circle of supporters.

A recent column in the Post-Dispatch called training the key to fueling recovery, noting employers’ concerns that there is a shortage of skilled workers.  Training is certainly one strategy to develop a skilled workforce. But does it start early enough? Is there a way to start building workforce skills like curiosity and adapatability in addition to math, science and literacy skills even before the start of formal school?

James Heckman is a Nobel prize winner and noted economist at the University of Chicago who has devoted a good portion of his career to examining the link between early childhood and economic success. Can parents really have that much influence over a child’s future ability to earn a living? And if so, why aren’t more employers looking at supporting proven early childhood programs as a strategy toward economic recovery and building a trained workforce?

Michael Martin talked with Heckman on NPR. Heckman “found that the effectiveness of early intervention is much, much higher than many of the interventions that American society has traditionally adopted to try to remediate, to patch up, to fix the problems that arise from disadvantaged environments.”

There are many strategies already on the President’s economic recovery agenda. Support for early childhood programs like Parents as Teachers belongs there, too.