Extensive research has shown that giving young children a good start in life is key to building a productive workforce and strong economy. High-quality child care also enables parents to be more present and productive at work. These first years are a unique period in life that lays the foundation on which all future abilities are built. During this period, children develop both the cognitive and emotional skills that they need to be successful adults. Researchers have detected a difference in brain processing speed between low-income and higher-income infants as early as nine months old. One study found that by age three, lower-income children had half the vocabulary of more-advantaged children. And children who enter primary school behind their peers often don’t catch up.
But this problem can be fixed.
Numerous rigorous studies have shown that early education, health, nutrition and other supports for young children have tremendous pay-offs. A meta-analysis of 30 different programs across 23 countries in Europe, Africa, Central/South America, and Asia found overwhelmingly positive impacts of early childhood programs on health, education, cognitive ability and emotional development. Several long-term U.S. studies have found benefits exceeding costs by a large margin, with a 7-10% annual rate of return. A letter sponsored by by the National Institute for Early Education Research, signed by more than 1,200 researchers from 34 countries concludes, “An extensive body of research in education, developmental psychology, neuroscience, medicine and economics shows that quality early childhood education programs produce better education, health, economic and social outcomes for children, families, and the nation.”
In this section we feature key resources from ReadyNation International and elsewhere that provide the most compelling business case for early childhood investments, and illustrations of business actions around the world.
Important business-related organizations worldwide have also endorsed early childhood:
- Heckman Equation, a website with the research of Nobel Laureate James Heckman
- U.S. Federal Reserve, including many regional branches
- The Lancet special edition on early childhood
- Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) has released a Business Engagement Toolkit “to help inform the development of local strategies to engage business in national nutrition priorities.“
Early Childhood as a Global Workforce Imperative
An American business leader talks human capital and the importance of investing early in Mexico City
Supporting Early Childhood: A Global Imperative, A Local Opportunity
From international CEOs to small-town shop owners, business leaders are making changes that help young children thrive, fulfill their potential, and become productive adults
Strengthening the Current and Future Workforce
European Business Leader Actions to Support Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC)