Early Childhood Programs and Economic Development


Dr. Bartik’s research examines the economic development benefits of universal, high-quality preschool education, and other early childhood programs, compared to traditional business incentives of the same cost. Dr. Bartik’s work argues that the main goal of economic development policy is to improve labor market outcomes for a given area, and so “economic development benefits” are defined as increased earnings per capita.

These economic development benefits are analyzed both from a state perspective and from a national perspective. In brief, Dr. Bartik’s research concludes that

universal preschool education would have sizable economic development benefits, both for a state that adopts universal preschool education and for the nation as a whole.

Similar findings are found for other early childhood programs, such as high-quality nurse visitation programs for first-time moms, and high-quality full-time child care and education programs.

For example, each $1 invested in universal preschool education is estimated to increase the:

  • present value of earnings in the state by almost $3
  • present value of earnings in the nation by almost $4

In the long-term, a national program of universal, high-quality preschool education would boost the size of the national economy by almost 2 percent. This increase represents:

  • over 3 million more jobs
  • almost $1 trillion in increased annual gross domestic product


Dr. Bartik’s research was funded in part by the Committee for Economic Development (CED) through a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Advancing Quality Pre-K for All initiative, and in part by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Dr. Bartik’s findings should not be interpreted as representing official views of Pew, CED, or the Upjohn Institute.


Other Publications

Useful Links

The following organizations have sponsored or conducted considerable additional research related to the economic benefits of high-quality preschool: