Assessing Costs and Benefits of Early Childhood Intervention Programs

Overview and Applications to the Starting Early, Starting Smart Program: Executive Summary

by Lynn A. Karoly, M. Rebecca Kilburn, James H. Bigelow, Jonathan P. Caulkins, Jill S. Cannon, James Chiesa

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Does money invested early in a child’s life pay dividends in the form of government savings or other societal benefits as he or she grows into adulthood? Is there a best method for determining what, if any, dividends have accrued? The authors identify the conceptual and methodological issues associated with the analysis of costs and outcomes of early intervention programs and review the prior application of these methods to several programs. This background leads to recommendations regarding the application of these tools for a particular public-private early intervention program, Starting Early Starting Smart (SESS). SESS was designed to test the effectiveness of integrating behavioral health services within primary care and early childhood service settings for children from birth to age seven. The specific recommendations are framed as a set of more general guidelines for decisionmakers to make choices about early childhood intervention programs.

The research described in this report was performed under the auspices of RAND's Labor & Population.

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