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HighScope Perry Preschool Study

View from behind of dad and three children walking down blueberry row at a u-pick farm.
Updating a groundbreaking study on the impact of early education
  • Client
    National Institute on Aging
  • Dates
    2012 - 2017

Sponsored by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the HighScope Perry Preschool Study (HPPS) is designed to teach us about the lasting effects of early childhood interventions, such as preschool programs. The original Perry Preschool Program targeted a disadvantaged African American population in the 1960s. Evaluated initially by a clinical trial of preschool-age children, participants were then followed periodically through age 40. Results from this longitudinal survey show strong evidence for the benefits of children in the treatment group in the areas of improved school readiness, higher female graduation rates, higher employment rates and earnings, reduced involvement in crime, and high economic return on investment.

The current Perry sample is now in its early to mid-50s. For the midlife round of interviews, the project supplements existing data by collecting both current and retrospective data on key outcomes relevant to the aging sample. HPPS draws questions from two major U.S. surveys (HRS, the Health and Retirement Survey, and the PSID, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics) to facilitate comparison with outcomes for comparable persons in the aging U.S. population. It also collects information on early childhood, which will supplement existing (but previously unused) Perry data on the quality of early home environments. We will augment this primary survey data by collecting and analyzing administrative data on crime and cause of death. To further bolster the dataset, the midlife round collects data using a set of innovative biomeasures that objectively indicate physiological activity. It also uses newly created adaptive tests to measure areas of cognitive ability and will develop and apply new statistical methods to analyze data from small-scale experiments with multiple outcomes and alterations to the original sampling plan.

Armed with these unique resources, the project will study the midlife effects of supplementing the early-life environments of disadvantaged children. It will contribute to our understanding of the developmental origins of adult health and will explore the roots of aging. It will also identify the extent to which early life experiences affect adult outcomes and investigate whether positive outcomes can be sustained over the life course of an intervention that took place three years after birth. Using the enhanced experimental data, it will strengthen previous analyses of the well-known cost-benefit and rate of return of the Perry Program, to include the benefits, if any, on health and mental health to the person and to society.

Project Director

Senior Vice President & Director

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