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Home arrow Geography arrow Global Perspectives on Human Capital in Early Childhood Education: Reconceptualizing Theory, Policy, and Practice

Human Capital Outcome Studies in United States

According to human capital theory each individual has a specific stock of skills, knowledge, and abilities, that is, human capital, with which each contributes to economic activity (Becker, 1993; Chiappero- Martinetti & Sabadash, forthcoming). The value of investments in human capital is based upon a variety of outcome measures including employment and earnings. Cost-benefit analysis estimates the benefits of a program by weighing outcomes or returns against program costs. As such, cost-benefit analysis is an ideal tool for analyzing studies based on human capital theory.

Working within a human capital perspective the economist James Heckman and his colleagues have conducted numerous studies examining the effectiveness of early education programs (Aizer & Cunha, 2012; Heckman, 2000a, 2000b, 2007, 2008; Heckman et al., 2006; Heckman & Kautz, 2012; Heckman & Masterov, 2007; Kilburn & Karoly, 2008). Heckman and his collaborators found that programs begun earlier in children’s lives produce greater gains than those begun in later years and that beginning earlier is more cost effective (Aizer & Cunha, 2012; Heckman, 2007). This argument is based on the cumulative nature of early interventions: later achievements build upon previously acquired abilities (Cunha & Heckman, 2009; Heckman, 2007).

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