New research from HCEO-Co-Director James J. Heckman and CEHD Predoctoral Fellow Ganesh Karapakula finds that targeted, high-quality early childhood investments have the power to lift multiple generations out of poverty. 

The new paper, “Intergenerational and Intragenerational Externalities of the Perry Preschool Project,” examines the impact of the iconic early childhood program on the children and siblings of the original participants. The authors find that the original participants and their children saw significant increases in education, health, full-time employment, and reduced incidence of anti-social behavior or crime. 

"For the first time, we have experimental evidence about how the case for early childhood propagates across generations," Heckman says. "Not only is there a first-generation effect on the treatment group, but also there’s a second-generation effect."

This groundbreaking research demonstrates that the effects of high-quality early childhood education extend to the second-generation. Heckman and Karapakula found substantial intergenerational effects on education, health, employment and crime, with the children of participants being more likely to be in good health, complete college and to be employed full-time.

"This is really an important study," Heckman says. "It shows not only that the preschool that’s been evaluated to have a rate-of-return per annum of 10-12 percent. Actually the structure is such that the rate-of-return is likely to be even higher, when we factor into account the next generation."

You can read “Intergenerational and Intragenerational Externalities of the Perry Preschool Project” here, and its companion paper, “The Perry Preschoolers at Late Midlife: A Study in Design-Specific Inference,” here.

Listen to Professor Heckman discuss the research on NPR’s Hidden Brain here.

Find the Heckman Equation Perry Preschool: Intergenerational Effects Toolkit here.