In 1967, researchers in Ypsilanti, Mich., randomly assigned a group of poor children to a high-quality preschool, and another group to no preschool at all. By age 5, the former preschoolers were more likely to score above 90 on an IQ test (67 percent vs. 28 percent). In school, they were less likely to repeat a grade (20 percent vs. 41 percent). In adulthood, they were less likely to be incarcerated (19 percent vs. 43 percent). At age 40, they had a higher median income ($1,856 per month vs. $1,308). The benefits even passed on to the next generation: More fathers who had gone to preschool were raising their own kids (57 percent vs. 30 percent).
The Perry Preschool study, one of the most famous social experiments of the last 50 years, adds to the preponderance of the evidence suggesting that investments early in life can reap powerful benefits later. That’s why Governor Patrick’s plan to expand access to early education is a potential game-changer for poor children, working parents, and even the state budget.