The White House recently announced its newest plan for free education, paid leave, childcare, and more. The fact sheet on The American Families Plan works through various aspects of the plan. In the release, they quote “Nobel Laureate James Heckman” to justify taxpayer-funded childcare and pre-K: 

A study by Nobel Laureate James Heckman found that every dollar invested in a high-quality, birth to five program for the most economically disadvantaged children resulted in $7.30 in benefits as children grew up healthier, were more likely to graduate high school and college, were less likely to be involved in crime, and earned more as adults.
White House

Mostly false or misleading. Significant errors or omissions. Mostly make believe.

But does this study really prove the benefits it claims?

What the White House fails to mention is that this study, despite having been published in 2016, uses data from a program implemented from 1972-1982. And not only is this data from four decades ago, but its sample size is incredibly small; there are only about 70 children in each different treatment group. (Access the study for yourself here).

It’s telling that the Administration does not cite research related to Head Start, which is the existing, major federal government initiative meant to encourage more children to access early education and is premised on the idea that doing so would lead to better life outcomes. Likely, the Administration is avoiding any mention of Head Start because research on the program has found that there are no lasting benefits to Head Start participation. This directly contradicts the argument that one dollar invested in preschool yields more than seven dollars in benefits. Head Starts suggests that every one dollar invested in federal preschools yields zero dollars of benefits on these metrics.