PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Friday, March 28, 2014

High-Quality Preschool Could Prevent Chronic Diseases In Adulthood, Study Finds

US President Barack Obama visits with preschoolers at Powell Elementary School in Washington, DC, March 4, 2014. The President has called for universal prekindergarten. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama visits with preschoolers at Powell Elementary School in Washington, DC, on March 4, 2014. The President has called for universal prekindergarten. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

A new study in the journal Science finds that high-quality preschool may prevent chronic diseases in adulthood.

Researchers looked at children who were in a preschool program in North Carolina during the 1970s and 80s.

The researchers found that when those kids were adults in their 30s, they had significantly better health outcomes, including lower levels of obesity and heart disease.

Professor James Heckman, a University of Chicago economist and Nobel laureate, joins Here & Now’s Sacha Pfeiffer to discuss the findings of this study and implications for early childhood programs.

The program Heckman and his colleagues studied provided disadvantaged children with early health screenings and interactions with quality caregivers — including meals prepared in consultation with a certified nutritionist.

Heckman says this study and others he has done about the impact of preschool on future outcomes creates a different measure of success.

“The way that preschool is actually being evaluated in Washington today … all the witnesses on all sides are focusing on test scores,” Heckman said. “What I’m suggesting is that the measures used now in the public debate on early childhood are actually missing a whole spectrum of other outcomes that these programs produce.”

Heckman has done research showing that every one dollar invested in preschool now can lead to seven dollars in returns to society.

However, Heckman says the real value of preschool is to remedy disadvantages poor children face.

“I don’t think its a necessary condition to attend preschool to have a successful life, and especially for people from middle class families, and upper middle class families,” Heckman said. “These are supplements to family life, and so the real question is how the American family is functioning for different parts of the social and economic spectrum. And I think it’s functioning much less well for disadvantaged children.”

Guest

  • James Heckman, lead researcher and Nobel laureate and professor of economics at the University of Chicago.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Spotlight

Throughout the week, Here & Now is looking at the impact a raise in the minimum wage would have on states, the federal government and workers.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

May 4 Comment

DJ Sessions: From Southern Fried Soul To Dance Party Duos

In this week's DJ Sessions, we spoke with KCRW's Raul Campos about "southern fried soul" from Texas and a dance duo from Los Angeles.

Mother Refuses To Gloss Over Addiction And Overdose In Daughter's Obituary

Kathleen Errico's daughter, Kelsey Endicott, lost her battle with opioid addiction in April, 2016.

How Did Donald Trump Become The Likely GOP Nominee?

Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson traces Trump's path from his announcement to his primary election and caucus victories.

May 3 Comment

Letter From ‘Little Miss Flint’ Inspires Obama To Visit

Obama will visit Flint, Michigan on Wednesday to meet with residents who've lived with contaminated water.