A unique early education program seems to help poor children succeed later in life, a new study reports. Those who graduated from the program in 2nd or 3rd grade were more likely to later attend college and have a full-time job as young adults. They were also less likely to be on welfare or other public assistance.
The program—called Child-Parent Centers (CPC)—focused on reading, math, field trips and parent involvement. It was created in 1967 in the Chicago Public School System and is still operating with federal funding. The program provides educational and family support to low-income children between 3 and 9 years of age.
To see whether the CPCs have lasting benefits, NIH-funded scientists studied about 1,000 people who had enrolled in the program in the mid-1980s. About 93% of the children were African American, and about 7% were Hispanic. The scientists compared the CPC graduates with about 500 similar children who attended different early childhood education programs.
CPC seemed to have lasting benefits, even for children who finished only part of the program. For instance, by age 24, children who attended only the pre-school program had lower rates of depression, felony arrests and incarceration than children who hadn’t attended. They were also more likely to enroll in 4-year colleges and have health insurance.
“These results strongly suggest that comprehensive early education programs can have benefits well into adult life,” said Dr. Duane Alexander, director of NIH’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “A comparatively small investment early in life is associated with gains in education, economic standing, mental health and other areas.”