Comparative benefit-cost analysis of the Abecedarian program and its policy implications

W. S. Barnett, Leonard N. Masse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

206 Scopus citations


Child care and education are to some extent joint products of preschool programs, but public policy and research frequently approach these two goals independently. We present a benefit-cost analysis of a preschool program that provided intensive education during full-day child care. Data were obtained from a randomized trial with longitudinal follow-up through age 21. Study participants were 104 economically disadvantaged children and their families. Economic benefits include increased maternal earnings, decreased K-12 schooling costs, increased lifetime earnings and decreased costs related to smoking. Net present value is positive over a range of reasonable discount rates. Program benefits are compared to estimates from other studies with particular attention to a benefit-cost analysis of a half-day preschool program that did not provide child care. Returns to early childhood policy could be improved by greater attention to how programs might maximize education and child care benefits together regardless of the primary aim of the policy's agency sponsor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-125
Number of pages13
JournalEconomics of Education Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Economics and Econometrics


  • Education economics
  • Human capital
  • Rate of return


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