Deficiencies that many children experience in the years leading up to school age—in health care, nutrition, emotional support, and intellectual stimulation, for example—play a major role in academic achievement gaps, behavioral problems, and other issues that persist for years. There are many intervention programs designed to strengthen families, provide disadvantaged children with the critical elements of healthy development, and prevent adverse experiences that can have lasting negative effects. It is critical, particularly for policy discussions, to ensure not only that such interventions provide lasting benefits for children, their families, and society, but also that the benefits translate into savings that outweigh the costs. Convincing analysis of benefits and costs can provide a guide to the best ways to spend scarce resources for early childhood programs.
This report summarizes a workshop held by the Board on Children, Youth, and Families on March 4-5, 2009, to explore ways to strengthen benefit-cost analysis so it can be used to support effective policy decisions. It describes the information and analysis that were presented at the workshop and the resulting discussions.