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The Best Economic Investment is…

Last night a diverse group of over 100 local business leaders, educators, elected officials, social service and health care providers all gathered to hear a presentation by Arthur Rolnick, Vice President of the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis. His topic was “The Best Economic Investment during Difficult Economic Times: Early Childhood Development.”

While most people think of preschool education and 0-3 development in terms of educational issues, Dr. Rolnick takes a different approach. He cites a study that followed 125 children from below poverty-level families for 30 years. Half the kids went to quality preschools, and half had nothing. By 6th grade, those kids with preschool were literate and had no grade repeats. Later, they had higher graduation rates than the control group, and most had good jobs. Their crime rates were 50% lower than those of the control group. As an economist, he crunched the numbers and found a 16% real rate of return on investment in early childhood investment! He cited another study that found an 8 to 10% return. Both are rates that would have investors lining up.

We will be posting a podcast of Dr. Rolnick’s full talk sometime next week. It was fitting that the presentation was co-sponsored by UVa’s Curry School of Education and that it took place at the Darden Graduate School of Business, as it blended business principles with education. If you care about education, poverty, and/or economic development, you should take the time to listen. You will come away with a whole new way of looking at community priorities.

Posted by Kim Connolly.

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