Early Childhood Program Outcomes

High-quality early education programs are proven to help children succeed in school; increase high-school graduation rates; reduce teen pregnancy rates, crime and other social problems; and reduce long-term social costs for special education, child welfare and public assistance.

The Abecedarian Project

The Abecedarian Project demonstrated that young children who receive high-quality early education from infancy to age five do better in reading and math and are more likely to stay in school longer, graduate from high school, and attend a four-year college. Children who participated in the early intervention program posted higher cognitive test scores and tended to wait longer to have their first child. Conducted by Dr. Craig Ramey, one of the nation’s leading early childhood researchers, this was the first study to track participants in an early learning program from infancy to age 21. Based in North Carolina, this study tracked 111 low-income African-American families. Half of participants were randomly assigned to receive full-time early learning intervention services starting at infancy; the other received no educational services.

Learn more about the Abecedarian Project.

High/Scope Perry Preschool

By age 40, adults who participated as 3- and 4-year-olds in quality preschool were more likely to have graduated from high school, held a job, made higher earnings, and committed fewer crimes than those who didn’t attend, according to this seminal study. In 1962, researchers began following 123 high-risk 3- and 4-year-olds and their families in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Nearly 60 of those children were randomly assigned to a high-quality early learning program; the rest received no preschool.

Learn more about the High/Scope Perry Preschool Project.

Chicago Parent-Child Centers

This study demonstrates that young children who receive high-quality early education do better in school academically, are less likely to drop out of high school, be arrested, repeat grades, or be placed in special education services. In addition to the increased earnings capacity by those who participated in the program, the study found that society saves more than $7 for every $1 invested in preschool. Conducted by Dr. Arthur Reynolds of the University of Wisconsin, the study followed 989 students enrolled in 20 Chicago Parent-Child Centers beginning at age three and a comparison group of 550 other eligible children who did not participate in the program until the children reached eighth grade.

Read a cost-benefit analysis of the program.

Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project

Children enrolled in Early Head Start performed better on measures of cognition, social-emotional, and language functioning than their peers who were not enrolled, according to this landmark study of the federal Early Head Start program. The study also found that children who participated in Early Head Start (from birth to age three) and later programs (from age 3 to 5) had the most positive outcomes. More than 3,000 children and families at 17 sites were randomly assigned to receive Early Head Start services or to be in a control group in 1996 for this Administration for Children and Families study.

Learn more about the Early Head Start study.

Home Visiting

In evidence-based home visiting programs, trained parent coaches provide child-development and parenting information to help young parents create safe, stimulating home environments; model positive and language-rich relationships; and connect families to medical, dental, mental-health, and other supports. Research studies have shown that home visiting programs increase children’s literacy and high school graduation rates, as well as how much parents read to their children. In addition, such programs increase positive birth outcomes for children, improve the likelihood that families have access to a doctor, and decrease rates of child abuse and neglect.

Read more about the research on home visiting programs in Home Visitation: Assessing Progress, Managing Expectations by the Ounce of Prevention Fund.


The primary focus of the doula is to support the parent-child relationship. This focus enables an early and strong parent-child attachment to be the foundation for the child’s health and development and eventual success in school. Research demonstrates the link between doulas and higher rates of breastfeeding, decreased rates of Cesarean section deliveries, decreased length of labor, improved mother-child interactions, and decreased evidence of maternal depression.

Read more about research on doula programs in The First Days of Life: Adding Doulas to Early Childhood Programs by the Ounce of Prevention Fund.