Building a Better Understanding of the Impact of Early Childhood Education and Care

Published in: European Commission website (2022)

Posted on RAND.org on January 27, 2022

by Elena Rosa Brown, Giulia Lanfredi, Annemari de Silva, Barbara Janta, Axelle Devaux

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There is an increasingly large body of evidence that suggests that early childhood education and care (ECEC) can have a marked effect on later life outcomes. Those benefits encompass a range of outcomes for children, parents and society at large, and include: improved educational, labour market and economic outcomes; improved health and wellbeing; increased socio-economic equality; reduction in crime-related costs; and reduced welfare dependency. Many of these outcomes do not work in isolation and, in many cases, they have a 'knock-on' effect. For instance, the availability of ECEC plays a key role in increased labour market participation of women, and this, in turn, could alleviate some of the gender pay gap.

Despite an increasing body of evidence on the benefits of ECEC participation on medium- and long-term outcomes, it has been noted that further studies are needed to further understand impact across diverse national systems. As we understand it, to date no paper has attempted to summarise approaches that would support such an undertaking at a national level. Therefore, this research note aims to provide an overview of what outcomes can be expected, how they have been measured in previous studies and the key factors that need to be considered.

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