Speaking via pre-recorded video to the Children’s Defense Fund’s recent national conference, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the board of governors of the Federal Reserve System and former chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, offered a concise rundown of the reasons he and other leading economists believe investing in high-quality early education is good for children and good for the country.
“Although education and the acquisition of skills is a lifelong process, starting early in life is crucial. Neuroscientists observe that if the first few years of a child’s life include support for healthy development in families and communities, the child is more likely to succeed in school and to contribute to society as an adult. Conversely, without support during these early years, a child is ultimately more likely to drop out of school, earn lower wages, depend on government programs, or be incarcerated,” Bernanke said.
“Economically speaking, early childhood programs are a good investment, with inflation-adjusted annual rates of return on the funds dedicated to these programs estimated to reach 10 percent or higher. Very few alternative investments can promise that kind of return. Notably, a portion of these economic returns accrues to the children themselves and their families, but studies show that the rest of society enjoys the majority of the benefits, reflecting the many contributions that skilled and productive workers make to the economy.”
(Read Bernanke’s speech: Early Childhood Education.)