Friday, February 10, 2006

The earlier the better

Professor Jim Heckman (University of Chicago and 2004 Nobel Prize winner) presented a very interesting lecture on education policy here at the University of Melbourne. The main insight from his work is how effective (and productive in a social rate of return sense) early childhood interventions are. These are not to improve IQ but to prove the 'softer' stuff that allows you to make use of your IQ (e.g., motivation, social awareness, etc). What you experience prior to age 6 (!) is apparently critical in this.

His papers are available on the web. But if I relate these findings to those in an earlier blog about IR reforms, I worry if the cost of those reforms is going to be much greater economically than anyone has appreciated to date. Coupled with the government's lacklustre approach to childcare and we are working in the wrong direction on this one.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

how does this compare to what freakanomics says in that all the early developmental stuff for children is hogwash?

Joshua Gans said...

No Freakanomics said that taking your kid to museums does not help. But taking kids out of violent neighbourhoods at regular intervals is another matter.

David said...

It's funny that it's considered sort of cutting edge when economic research confirms what pretty much any teacher, parent, paediatrician, psychologist or childcare worker could have told you 100 years ago.

Still, it's positive.

hc said...

I agree. He has pointed out that changing things at early ages is effective but doesn't really address the issue of the costs of doing this. For one thing there are high transaction costs of intervening in families.

Still a fascinating story Heckman told. I want to read "inequality in America'.