Skill formation and the economics of investing in disadvantaged children
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Professor James Heckman

This brief paper summarizes evidence on the effects of early environments on child, adolescent, and adult achievement. Heckman argues that investing in disadvantaged pupils is a public policy initiative that promotes fairness and social justice and at the same time promotes productivity in the economy and in society at large.

Early interventions, targeted toward disadvantaged pupils tend to have higher returns than later interventions such as reduced pupil:teacher ratios or tuition subsidies. Though he adds that early investments must be followed by later investments and effective interventions if maximum value is to be realized.

Heckman also suggests too much public policy focuses on cognitive test score outcomes when measuring the success of interventions, in spite of the evidence on the importance of non-cognitive skills in social success. 

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Professor James Heckman

Published by:
Science Magazine

Date of publication:
June 2006

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Outlining the importance, of early effective interventions for the development of both cognitive and non-cognitive abilities, particularly for disadvantaged pupils, this brief paper may make for interesting reading for policy makers and education researchers.  


Record ID:
R261 / 365
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