Quality Kindergarten Experience Leads to Greater Earnings Later
Its Back-to-School time again! Many parents will (tearfully) begin this year by sending their children off to kindergarten for the first time. But parents, remember this - A great kindergarten experiences increases the likelihood of your child later earning an average of $1000 - $2000 more per year than children who have a lesser quality experience.
Early Childhood Learning is Key to Later Success
Harvard economists Raj Chetty and John Friedman used data from the Tennessee STAR (Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio) project which tracked 12,000 students from 80 schools into adulthood with similar backgrounds who were assigned to random kindergarten classes in the 1980’s. This study was initially started to evaluate the effect of class size on student learning. The new study, funded by the National Science Foundation’s Division of Social and Economic Sciences, went beyond what children learned during their first formal year of schooling to seek how the experience affected their lives as adults.
Students who progress during their kindergarten year from attaining an average score on the Stanford Achievement Test to reaching a score in the 60th percentile can expect to make about $1000 more per year at age 27 than students who do not improve their score over the course of the year. Children who are in smaller classes who attain an above average score on the Test can earn about $2000 more per year.
The researchers also found that those students who learn more in kindergarten were more likely to go to college, more likely to own a home by age 28, more likely to save for retirement, and less likely to become single parents.
"Kindergarten interventions matter a great deal for long-term outcomes," said Friedman. "We find that both smaller class sizes and teachers with more experience improve long-term outcomes," he said. "We believe that other teacher characteristics, as well as various characteristics of a student's peers, also have significant impacts on later life outcomes, but the data did not allow us to measure those effects well."
"Your kindergarten teacher sort of gets you off on the right track," said Chetty (as told to NPR). "Teachers use basic skills that you might use later in life, like how to study hard, how to focus, patience, manners, things like that, in addition to better academic skills. And all these things have a long-term payoff."
The research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, was presented at an academic conference in Cambridge, MA.