David Leonhardt reports today on a new study that debunks current common wisdom on the value of kindergarten.
How much do your kindergarten teacher and classmates affect the rest of your life?
Economists have generally thought that the answer was not much. Great teachers and early childhood programs can have a big short-term effect. But the impact tends to fade. By junior high and high school, children who had excellent early schooling do little better on tests than similar children who did not —
Yet when Mr. Chetty and his colleagues took another look at the students in adulthood, they discovered that the legacy of kindergarten had re-emerged.
Students who had learned much more in kindergarten were more likely to go to college than students with otherwise similar backgrounds. Students who learned more were also less likely to become single parents. As adults, they were more likely to be saving for retirement. Perhaps most striking, they were earning more.
The work has yet to be peer reviewed and flaws may yet emerge in the study. However the implications if the findings hold up are huge. It is a bright arrow pointing toward spending on early childhood education. Getting early childhood education right could reduce the need for more expensive interventions later on.
And as a parent, it makes me much more stressed about my kid’s kindergarten teacher.