Making the Case

Why birth to five? Scientific research, economic analyses and program evaluation studies all point to the early years as an important window of opportunity in children’s lives. Studies show that it pays to invest in our youngest children.

Scientific Research

Dramatic scientific advances in understanding early childhood and brain development show the remarkable cognitive skills as well as social and emotional capacities young children posses. Starting in the first days, weeks, and years of life, the interaction of early experiences and genes “create a foundation for lifelong learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health.”

The Center on the Developing Child, a cross-disciplinary academic center at Harvard University, was established to generate, translate, and apply knowledge in the service of closing the gap between what we know and what we do to support positive life outcomes for children. Current projects include the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child and the National Forum on Early Childhood Program Evaluation.

Economic Analyses

Economic data from numerous longitudinal studies show significant benefits to society from investments that support early childhood development and learning. James Heckman, University of Chicago economist and Nobel Prize winner, points to the effectiveness of investments in the very young as one strategy to meet the United States’ future workforce needs in the global economy. As Heckman describes, early in life, children begin to cultivate important skills like motivation and persistence, which they need to be successful in the workforce. Heckman’s findings are described in a January 2006 Wall Street Journal op-ed ”Catch ‘Em Young.” Visit Heckmen’s website for more information.

The Partnership for Americas Economic Success was created to lay the groundwork for making the success of every child the nation’s top economic priority through research, communication and coalition-building over the next ten years.  The Committee for Economic Development is educating and mobilizing business leaders in support of improved policies for young children. 

Program Evaluation Studies

Mountains of studies examine the effectiveness of specific programs, program strategies and components. These studies look at particular settings and interventions such as Early Head Start, home visiting/family support, prekindergarten, and child care. They examine the impact of specific components like teacher training, classroom quality, and social and emotional development.

Additional Research Sources

To find a comprehensive collection of research on child care and early education, visit Research Connections, a searchable website that includes scholarly research, policy briefs, government reports, data, and instruments from a wide range of disciplines and sources, including multiple federal agencies.