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New Study Finds Preschool Grads Less Likely to Be the Dregs of Society

Aug 07, 2007

A 20-year study published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that preschool programs have enduring effects into adulthood. Preschool grads are less likely to go to prison, and more likely to be healthy, well-adjusted adults.

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Chicago Longitudinal Study Results

Preschool Grads Non-Preschool Grads
20.6% incarcerated for a crime 25.6% incarcerated for a crime
16.5% arrested for felony 21.1% arrested for felony
71.4% finished high school 63.7% finished high school
14.7% attended 4-year college 10% attended 4-year college
70.2% had health insurance 61.5% had health insurance
12.8% depressed 17.4% depressed

Source: Chicago Longitudinal Study/Journal of the American Medical Association

A total of 1,539 low-income participants (in Chicago, IL) took part in the Chicago Longitudinal Study, which began in 1986. The two comparison groups were all born in 1979 or 1980, and were evenly matched in age, ethnicity, and family size, as well as neighborhood and family income status.

The objective of the study was to determine the effects of early childhood education on the health and well-being of a young adult. As the statistics clearly point out, a preschool education profoundly affects the extent of educational attainment, economic well-being, and health status.

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A Similar Education Study

Although a preschool education has long been considered to be of value, there are very few studies that have tracked the progress of students in such a comprehensive manner. For this reason alone, the Chicago Longitudinal Study is a groundbreaking report.

Similar studies, however, have been completed. A good example is a 1962 study of 123 boys and girls in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Half of the students in this controlled study benefited from preschool services; the other half did not. By age 40, the differences in the two groups were overwhelming.

Those who didn't attend preschool-55 percent--had been arrested at least 5 times. The preschool grads in this study also had higher high school completion and employment rates.

Preschool Education Funding

You would think that research like this would create a wave of state campaigns to improve preschool education, but this is not necessarily the case. At this time, there is a severe lack of preschool funding. In some states, like Iowa, less than 30 percent of families have access to high quality preschools.

There are many schools that apply for funding, of course, but there simply isn't enough money to go around. The sad part is that the investment would not be in vain.

According to the Chicago Longitudinal Study, every dollar invested in preschool education can return $10 in economic benefits. The reason? Expenditures for medical care and our justice system cost us 20 percent of the gross domestic product each year, making the potential savings to government and taxpayers significant.

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