Wednesday, April 4, 2018
Publicly funded early education programs show a sustained educational boost
DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS This matched-group, alternative intervention study
assessed 1539 low-income minority children born in 1979 or 1980 who grew up in
high-poverty neighborhoods in Chicago, Illinois. The comparison group included 550 children
primarily from randomly selected schools participating in the usual early intervention. A total
of 989 children who entered preschool in 1983 or 1984 and completed kindergarten in 1986
were included in the Chicago Longitudinal Study and were followed up for 27 to 30 years
after the end of a multicomponent intervention. A total of 1398 participants (90.8%) in the
original sample had educational attainment records at 35 years of age. The study was
performed from January 1, 2002, through May 31, 2015.
INTERVENTIONS The Child-Parent Center Program provides school-based educational
enrichment and comprehensive family services from preschool to third grade
(ages 3-9 years).
IMPORTANCE Educational attainment is the leading social determinant of health, but few
studies of prevention programs have examined whether the programs are associated with
educational attainment outcomes after the mid-20s, especially for large-scale programs that
provide a longer duration of services.
OBJECTIVE To examine the association between a preschool to third grade intervention and
educational attainment at midlife and differences by program duration, sex, and parental
MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES Educational outcomes from administrative records and
self-report included school dropout, 4-year high school graduation, years of education,
postsecondary credential, and earned degrees from associate’s to master’s or higher.
RESULTS A total of 1539 participants (mean [SD] age, 35.1 [0.32] years; 1423 [92.9%] black
and 108 [7.1%] Hispanic) were included in the study. After weighting on 2 propensity scores,
preschool participants had higher rates of postsecondary degree completion, including
associate’s degree or higher (15.7%vs 10.7%; difference, 5.0%; 95%CI, 1.0%-9.0%), master’s
degree (4.2%vs 1.5%; difference, 2.7%; 95%CI, 1.3%-4.1%), and years of education (12.81 vs
12.32; difference, 0.49; 95%CI, 0.20-0.77). Duration of participation showed a consistent
linear association with outcomes. Compared with fewer years, preschool to second or third
grade participation led to higher rates of associate’s degree or higher (18.5%vs 12.5%;
difference, 6.0%; 95%CI, 1.0%-11.0%), bachelor’s degree (14.3%vs 8.2%; difference, 6.1%;
95%CI, 1.3%-10.9%), and master’s degree or higher (5.9%vs 2.3%; difference, 3.6%; 95%CI,
1.4%-5.9%). The pattern of benefits was robust and favored male participants for high school
graduation, female participants for college attainment, and those from lower-educated
CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE This study indicates that an established early and continuing
intervention is associated with higher midlife postsecondary attainment. Replication and
extension of findings to other locations and populations should further strengthen
confidence in the health benefits of large-scale preventive interventions.