Skip over navigation

Journal Issue: Long-Term Outcomes Of Early Childhood Programs Volume 5 Number 3 Winter 1995

Statement of Purpose
Richard E. Behrman

Statement of Purpose

The primary purpose of The Future of Children is to disseminate timely information on major issues related to children's well-being, with special emphasis on providing objective analysis and evaluation, translating existing knowledge into effective programs and policies, and promoting constructive institutional change. In attempting to achieve these objectives, we are targeting a multidisciplinary audience of national leaders, including policymakers, practitioners, legislators, executives, and professionals in the public and private sectors. This publication is intended to complement, not duplicate, the kind of technical analysis found in academic journals and in the general coverage of children's issues by the popular press and special interest groups.

This issue of the journal focuses on the potential of early childhood programs to improve the development and life outcomes of children. This topic was chosen because some policymakers continue to manifest uncertainty about the long-term impact of preschool programs and because contemplated changes in funding for such programs offer the opportunity to reconfigure support for children and families in a manner that may allow increased coherence of the currently disparate array of service programs needed by low-income families.

The evidence developed over the past three decades from research, demonstrations, program evaluations, and practical experience in the United States and in other countries strongly supports several general conclusions:

1. Early childhood programs such as Head Start and preschool improve children's cognitive performance and success in school, increasing the likelihood that they will later be productive citizens, as measured by higher earnings and a lower incidence of criminal activity. These programs are particularly cost-effective investments in the lives of young children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

2. Positive results depend on the quality of the programs provided, especially if the programs are to undo the damaging effects of poverty on children and their families. Program quality is both expensive and essential.

3. Public funding is crucial to assure that poor children have access to these programs which can put them on a path toward success. Although the benefits of early childhood programs accrue primarily to low-income children, these children are less likely than children from middle- and upper-income families to attend such programs because of the costs.

The articles presented here summarize knowledge and experience in selected areas that we believe are relevant to improving public policies in the United States that have an impact on the long-term outcomes of early childhood programs. We hope the information and analyses these articles contain will further understanding of the important issues and thus contribute to reasonable changes in policies which will benefit children.

We invite your comments and suggestions regarding this issue of The Future of Children. Our intention is to encourage informed debate about the long-term effects of early childhood programs. To this end we invite correspondence to the Editor. We would also appreciate your comments about the approach we have taken in presenting the focus topic and welcome your suggestions for future topics.