a new study has found that the effects of an excellent kindergarten education last into adulthood, challenging previous findings that such effects faded by junior high school. The earlier research took into account test scores only; when other measures such as income and college education were considered, kindergarten’s impact was far more significant.
The study’s authors include professor of economics Raj Chetty and assistant professor in public policy John Friedman. Their findings were presented at an academic conference this week, and have not yet been published, the New York Times reports.
The individuals studied had been tracked since the 1980s in a large longitudinal study that began when they were elementary-school students in Tennessee. The researchers found that those subjects who had been in classes with an exceptional teacher (measured by the average improvement in test scores for each class) earned more, were more likely to hold college degrees, and were less likely to be single parents today. Class size and average socioeconomic status also made a difference.
The study quantifies the additional income that students in the best classes earn: a total of $320,000 per year per excellent kindergarten class.
Previously published findings had shown that the students who fared best in kindergarten continued to perform better than their peers through grades four, five, and six, but the beneficial effects seemed to disappear by junior high and high school. (A 1999 Harvard Magazine article gave more detail on the study, known as Project STAR.)
The other authors of the new study are Nathaniel Hilger and Danny Yagan, both graduate students in economics at Harvard; Emmanuel Saez, Cox professor of economics at the University of California at Berkeley; and Diane Schanzenbach, professor of education and social policy at Northwestern University.