Perry Preschool Project Outcomes in the Next Generation
Children of the low-income African Americans who participated in the 1960s program are more likely to have a high school degree and to be employed, and less likely to have been arrested.
For several years in the 1960s, 58 low-income, African-American three- and four-year-old children attended a high-quality, free preschool program in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The children were randomly assigned to treatment. The program included weekly home visits — most for two years. Researchers have been tracking the participants ever since in a long-running experiment known as the Perry Preschool Project. While the boost in IQ from the intervention initially appeared to fade out after several years, researchers have since documented significant long-term benefits. In comparison to a control group of peers, Perry participants enjoy better academic, labor market, behavioral, and health outcomes in adulthood. They also exhibit better executive functioning and socioemotional skills, which are the main factors producing program success.
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In Intergenerational and Intragenerational Externalities of the Perry Preschool Project (NBER Working Paper No. 25889),
James J. Heckman and
Ganesh Karapakula use survey data to examine how the children of the original Perry Preschool Project participants have fared in adulthood. They find substantial positive effects. In comparison to the children of those in the control group, Perry participants' children are more than 30 percentage points less likely to have been suspended from school, about 20 percentage points more likely never to have been arrested or suspended, and over 30 percentage points more likely to have a high school diploma and to be employed. While the researchers do not have earnings data on the Perry participants' children, they note that the children "likely earn more than those in the control group, perhaps due to enhanced cognitive and noncognitive skills."
— Dwyer Gunn
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