The Economics of Early Educational Intervention: A Review

W. Steven Barnett, Colette M. Escobar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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From an economic perspective, early educational intervention is an investment in the lives of young children that may yield both immediate and future returns. Economic analysis can be used to estimate the costs and benefits of investments in early intervention and to produce estimates of the net economic gain to society resulting from early intervention. In the last two decades, at least 20 economic analyses of early intervention have been conducted and their results widely distributed. The “cost-effectiveness” of early intervention has been used with apparent success as an argument for a wide range of early interventions for infants and young children. This paper critically reviews the existing literature to assess the strength of the empirical evidence regarding the economics of early intervention. We find that a few studies provide credible evidence that early intervention for disadvantaged children can be a sound economic investment. Many of the studies that have been conducted were found to be problematic, however, and much work remains to be done. Few conclusions can be drawn regarding the relative economic efficiency of alternative intervention strategies or the long-term economic benefits of early intervention programs for handicapped children. Recommendations are offered for improving the research base.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)387-414
Number of pages28
JournalReview of Educational Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1987
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education


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