Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said early childhood education is "crucial" and that effective schooling supports the economy by reducing poverty, boosting wages and increasing job satisfaction.
"Specialists in economic development have identified educational attainment as a key source of economic growth and rising incomes in many countries around the world," Bernanke said in recorded remarks to be delivered by video today to the Children's Defense Fund national conference in Cincinnati.
Children who attended "high-quality" preschools were more likely to own homes at age 40 than those who didn't attend preschool, Bernanke said. Economic benefits also extend to society as a whole because workers are more skilled, said Bernanke, a 58-year-old former Princeton University professor whose wife, Anna, is a teacher.
Early support makes children more likely to succeed in school and to contribute to society as adults, while those without it are "more likely to drop out of school, earn lower wages, depend on government programs, or be incarcerated," the Fed chairman said, citing research from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.
"Economically speaking, early childhood programs are a good investment, with inflation-adjusted annual rates of return on the funds dedicated to these programs estimated to reach 10 percent or higher," Bernanke said. "Very few alternative investments can promise that kind of return."