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Blau, David M. & Currie, Janet (2008). Efficient Provision of High Quality Early Childhood Education: Does the Private Sector or Public Sector Do It Best?. CESifo DICE Report, 6(2), 15-20.


There is a broad consensus in the United States that the benefits to children and society from investments in the cognitive and non-cognitive skills of disadvantaged pre-school age children far outweigh the social costs of such investments. Evidence from random assignment evaluations of very highquality experimental pre-school programs shows long-term benefits in the form of higher educational attainment, greater labor force participation, higher earnings, reduced dependence on public assistance and reduced crime. The value of these benefits is estimated to be much larger than the costs of the programs, despite high program costs due to the very high quality and intensity of the treatment (Belfield et al. 2006; Masse and Barnett 2002). Both the federally-funded Head Start program and a rapidly growing set of state-funded pre-kindergarten programs are popular across the political spectrum in the US. The quality of these large-scale programs is lower than the quality of the small-scale experimental programs, but generally high enough to meet standards recommended by accrediting organizations. Evaluations of Head Start and Pre-K programs show substantial short-run improvements in child skills, and in the case of Head Start there is evidence of beneficial long-run effects as well (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2005; Gormley et al. 2005; Currie and Thomas 1995).

Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

CESifo DICE Report


Blau, David M.
Currie, Janet