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NBER WORKING PAPER SERIESA NEW COST-BENEFIT AND RATE OF RETURN ANALYSIS FOR THE PERRY PRESCHOOL PROGRAM:A SUMMARYJames J. HeckmanSeong Hyeok MoonRodrigo PintoPeter SavelyevAdam YavitzWorking Paper 16180http://www.nber.org/papers/w16180NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH1050 Massachusetts AvenueCambridge, MA 02138July 2010
This research was supported by the American Bar Foundation, NIH R01-HD054702, The California
Endowment, The Commonwealth Foundation, The Nemours Foundation, the Buffett Early Childhood
Fund, and an Anonymous Funder. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not
necessarily those of the funders listed here, nor of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
NBER working papers are circulated for discussion and comment purposes. They have not been peer-
reviewed or been subject to the review by the NBER Board of Directors that accompanies official
NBER publications.
© 2010 by James J. Heckman, Seong Hyeok Moon, Rodrigo Pinto, Peter Savelyev, and Adam Yavitz.
All rights reserved. Short sections of text, not to exceed two paragraphs, may be quoted without explicit
permission provided that full credit, including © notice, is given to the source.
A New Cost-Benefit and Rate of Return Analysis for the Perry Preschool Program: A SummaryJames J. Heckman, Seong Hyeok Moon, Rodrigo Pinto, Peter Savelyev, and Adam YavitzNBER Working Paper No. 16180July 2010JEL No. H43,J13,J24
This paper summarizes our recent work on the rate of return and cost-benefit ratio of an influential
early childhood program.James J. HeckmanDepartment of EconomicsThe University of Chicago1126 E. 59th StreetChicago, IL 60637and University College Dublin and IZAand also NBER jjh@uchicago.eduSeong Hyeok MoonDepartment of EconomicsThe University of Chicago1126 E. 59th StreetChicago, IL 60637moon@uchicago.eduRodrigo PintoDepartment of EconomicsThe University of Chicago1126 E. 59th StreetChicago, IL 60637rodrig@uchicago.eduPeter SavelyevDepartment of Economics1126 E. 59th StreetChicago, IL 60637psavel@uchicago.eduAdam YavitzDepartment of Economics1126 E. 59th StreetChicago, IL 60637adamy@uchicago.edu
1 Introduction
The Perry Preschool Program was an early childhood education program conducted at thePerry Elementary School in Ypsilanti, Michigan, during the early 1960s. The evidence fromit is widely cited to support the economic argument for investing in early childhood programs.Only disadvantaged children living in adverse circumstances who had low IQ scores anda low index of family socioeconomic status were eligible to participate in the Perry pro-gram. Actual participation was determined by a toss of a coin. Beginning at age 3 andlasting 2 years, treatment consisted of a 2.5-hour preschool program on weekdays during theschool year, supplemented by weekly home visits by teachers. The curriculum was based onsupporting children’s cognitive and socio-emotional development through
active learning 
inwhich both teachers and children had major roles in shaping children’s learning. Childrenwere encouraged to plan, carry out, and reflect on their own activities through a plan-do-review process. Follow-up interviews were conducted when participants were approximately15, 19, 27, and 40 years old. At these interviews, participants provided detailed informationabout their life-cycle trajectories including schooling, economic activity, marital life, childrearing, and incarceration. In addition, Perry researchers collected administrative data inthe form of school records, police and court records, and records on welfare participation.Schweinhart, Montie, Xiang, Barnett, Belfield, and Nores (2005) describe the program andthe available data.As the oldest and most cited early childhood intervention, the Perry study serves as a flag-ship for policy makers advocating public support for early childhood programs. Schweinhart,Montie, Xiang, Barnett, Belfield, and Nores (2005) and Heckman, Moon, Pinto, Savelyev,and Yavitz (2010a) describe the program and its outcomes in detail and report substantialshort-term and long-term treatment effects. They report crime reduction as a major benefit.However, critics of the Perry program point to the small sample size of the study, thelack of a substantial long-term effect of the program on IQ, and the absence of statistical2

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