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Research Report

Impacts of Early Childhood Education on Medium- and Long-Term Educational Outcomes

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Despite calls to expand early childhood education (ECE) in the United States, questions remain regarding its medium- and long-term impacts on educational outcomes. Researchers used meta-analysis of 22 studies conducted between 1960 and 2016 to find that on average, participation in ECE leads to statistically significant reductions in special education placement and grade retention and increases in high school graduation rates. These results support ECE’s utility for reducing education-related expenditures and promoting child well-being. The findings contrast with other research, such as on the federal Head Start program and on Tennessee’s preschool program, that have found that the behavioral and academic benefits of those programs fade over time. The Head Start and Tennessee studies, however, examined child outcomes a few years into participants’ elementary school years. This analysis took a longer view; many of the studies tracked children into high school and beyond.


Dana Charles McCoy, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Kathleen M. Ziol-Guest, Greg J. Duncan, Holly S. Schindler, Katherine Magnuson, Rui Yang, Andrew Koepp, Jack P. Shonkoff. Impacts of Early Childhood Education on Medium- and Long-Term Educational Outcomes. Educational Researcher, Vol 46, Issue 8, pp. 474 - 487. First Published November 15, 2017.

Related topics

Preschool and Child Care