Study: Boost from preschool lasts into adulthood

June 9, 2011

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Kids who get good education in early childhood tend to do better, and a new study of a Chicago preschool program shows the benefits last well into adulthood.

Arthur Reynolds began studying more than 1,500 Chicago kids back in 1986, and he’s kept up with most of them ever since. About two-thirds of those children went through the Child-Parent Center Education Program – the rest through traditional pre-kindergarten programs, which start later and are less intensive. The two groups had similar backgrounds, largely poor and African American.

Now those kids are turning 28, and Reynolds, a University of Minnesota professor of child development, says people who had rigorous preschool are still enjoying advantages after 25 years.

“There’s an initial effect on school readiness,” said Reynolds, a professor of child development at the University of Minnesota. “That kind of sets off sort of a chain reaction that leads to the changes that we see in adulthood at the end of the twenties.”

That chain reaction, according to the new research, produces adults who are more affluent and better educated. They were 28 percent less likely to go to prison or have drug and alcohol problems. The advantages were clearest for males, and for the children of high school dropouts. The results are published in the journal, “Science.”