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Schools, Skills,

and Synapses
James J. Heckman
University of Chicago
The Argument
Argument

Polarization

Skills

Abilities and
Outcomes

Explanations

Critical and
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary
The Argument

Argument
Many major economic and social problems
Polarization

Skills
such as crime, teenage pregnancy, dropping
Abilities and out of high school and adverse health
Outcomes
conditions can be traced to low levels of skill
Explanations

Critical and
and ability in society.
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary
The Argument

Argument
Need to recognize the multiplicity of abilities.
Polarization

Skills

Abilities and Current public policy discussions focus on


Outcomes
promoting and measuring cognitive ability
Explanations

Critical and
through IQ and achievement tests.
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits For example, in the U.S. the accountability


Summary standards in the No Child Left Behind Act
concentrate attention on achievement
test scores, not evaluating a range of other
factors that promote success in school and life.
The Argument

Argument
Cognitive abilities are important determinants
Polarization

Skills
of socioeconomic success.
Abilities and
Outcomes
So are socioemotional skills, physical
Explanations

Critical and
and mental health, perseverance,
Sensitive
Periods
attention, motivation, and self confidence.
Circuits

Summary They contribute to performance in


society at large and even help determine
scores on the tests that are used to
monitor cognitive achievement.
The Argument

Argument
Ability gaps — cognitive and noncognitive­—
Polarization

Skills
between the advantaged and disadvantaged
Abilities and open up early in the lives of children.
Outcomes

Explanations

Critical and
Family environments of young children are
Sensitive
Periods
major predictors of cognitive and socioemotional
Circuits abilities, as well as crime, health and obesity.
Summary

This observation is a major source of concern


because family environments in the U.S. the
U.K. and Ireland and many other countries
around the world have deteriorated over the
past 40 years.
The Argument

Argument
Experimental evidence on the effectiveness
Polarization

Skills
of early interventions in disadvantaged families
Abilities and is consistent in a positive way with a large
Outcomes
body of non-experimental evidence that adverse
Explanations

Critical and
family environments, especially adverse
Sensitive
Periods
parenting, substantially impair child outcomes.
Circuits

Summary If society intervenes early enough, it can raise


cognitive and socioemotional abilities and the
health of disadvantaged children.
The Argument

Argument
Socioemotional abilities are malleable,
Polarization

Skills
and neglected in most cognitively oriented
Abilities and intervention studies.
Outcomes

Explanations

Critical and
Early interventions promote schooling, reduce
Sensitive
Periods
crime, foster workforce productivity and reduce
Circuits teenage pregnancy.
Summary

These interventions are estimated to have high


benefit-cost ratios and rates of return.
The Argument

Argument
As programs are currently configured, early
Polarization

Skills
interventions have much higher economic
Abilities and returns than later interventions focused on
Outcomes
promoting cognitive factors such as reduced
Explanations

Critical and
pupil-teacher ratios, public job training, convict
Sensitive
Periods
rehabilitation programs, adult literacy programs,
Circuits tuition subsidies or expenditure on police.
Summary
The Argument

Argument
Life cycle skill formation is dynamic in nature.
Polarization

Skills
Skill begets skill; motivation begets motivation.
Abilities and If a child is not motivated and stimulated
Outcomes
to learn and engage early on in life, the more
Explanations

Critical and
likely it is that when the child becomes
Sensitive
Periods
an adult, it will fail in social and economic life.
Circuits

Summary The longer society waits to intervene in


the life cycle of a disadvantaged child, the
more costly it is to remediate disadvantage.
Similar dynamics are at work in creating child
health and mental health.
The Argument

Argument
A major refocus of policy is required to
Polarization

Skills
understand the life cycle of skill and health
Abilities and formation and the importance of the early
Outcomes
years in creating inequality in America,
Explanations

Critical and
and in producing skills for the workforce.
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary
Consider One
Argument

Polarization

Skills

Aspect of
Abilities and
Outcomes

Explanations

Increasing
Critical and
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Polarization in
Summary

American Society
Consider One Aspect of Increasing
Polarization in American Society
Argument
Schooling attainment rates.
Polarization

Skills

Abilities and The U.S. high school dropout rate is increasing.


Outcomes

Explanations

Critical and
More youth going to college.
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits This trend is masked by official statistics.


Summary
Figure 1: True Dropout Rate vs. NCES Status
Dropout Rate, Males and Females 1968 – 2000

Argument 30%

Polarization
26
Skills

Abilities and
22
Outcomes

Explanations
18
Critical and
Sensitive
14
Periods

Circuits
10
Summary

1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000

True Dropout Rate (Inc. GEDs)

NCES Dropout Rate (Exc. GEDs)

Source: Heckman and LaFontaine (2007).


Consider One Aspect of Increasing
Polarization in American Society
Argument
High school graduation as a source of growth
Polarization

Skills
in educational attainment diminishes and turns
Abilities and negative for more recent cohorts of Americans.
Outcomes

Explanations

Critical and
The decline in high school graduation rates
Sensitive
Periods
since 1970 (for cohorts born after 1950) has
Circuits flattened college attendance and completion
Summary rates as well as growth in the skill level of the
U.S. workforce.
Consider One Aspect of Increasing
Polarization in American Society
Argument
Annual growth in labor productivity is slowed
Polarization

Skills
by 0.17 to 0.35 percent per year by the trends
Abilities and that reduce the growth of labor force quality.
Outcomes

Explanations

Critical and
America will produce less than half of the
Sensitive
Periods
growth in college graduates than it produced in
Circuits the previous 20 years despite the growth in the
Summary size of the total population.

Level of skill in the U.S. population is low.


Table 2: Educational Characteristics of the Labor
Force Aged 25 and Over, 1980, 2000, 2020

Argument Labor Force Growth Labor Force Growth Labor Force


Education 1980 1980 – 2000 2000 2000 – 2020 in 2020
Polarization
Less than High School 17.3 -5.3 12.0 0.9 12.9
Skills High School Only 31.5 6.3 37.8 3.8 41.6

Abilities and Some Schooling Beyond — — — — —


Outcomes High School 13.8 19.1 32.9 6.2 39.1

Explanations College Degree or More 17.3 18.5 35.8 7.7 43.5

Critical and Total 79.8 38.7 118.5 18.6 137.1

Sensitive % with College Degree 21.6% 30.2% 31.7%


Periods

Circuits *Assumes that subsequent cohorts have same education at age 25 as the cohort age 25 in 2000.

Summary

Source: Ellwood (2001).


Figure 7: Percentage of Each Gender Who
Perform At Level 1 on the IALS Document
Literacy Scale
Argument 40

Polarization

Skills

Abilities and 30

Outcomes

Explanations
Proportion

Critical and 20

Sensitive
Periods

Circuits
10
Summary

USA England Germany Sweden USA England Germany Sweden

Males
Females
Note: The scale scores were grouped into five levels of increasing difficulty, with Level 1 representing functional illiteracy. Levels 4 and 5
were combined. The sample is restricted to adults who are between 16 and 65 years of age at the time of the survey (1994 for the U.S.
and Germany, 1996 for the U.K., and 1994 –1995 for Sweden). Standard errors are calculated using the methodology described in the
International Adult Literacy Survey Microdata User's Guide (2002).
Consider One Aspect of Increasing
Polarization in American Society
Argument
What forces produce these low levels
Polarization

Skills
and adverse trends?
Abilities and
Outcomes
Are the public schools mainly responsible?
Explanations

Critical and
Sensitive
Periods
Can we look to school reform to fix
Circuits the problem?
Summary

Are higher college tuition costs to blame?

The answer is “No” to all of these questions.


Consider One Aspect of Increasing
Polarization in American Society
Argument
Contrary to prevailing views, accounting
Polarization

Skills
for the ability of a child at the age college
Abilities and decisions are made, tuition costs
Outcomes
and schooling quality explain a trivial
Explanations

Critical and
fraction of the gaps in educational attainment
Sensitive
Periods
by socioeconomic status.
Circuits

Summary
The Importance
Argument

Polarization

Skills

of Cognitive
Abilities and
Outcomes

Explanations

and Noncognitive
Critical and
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary

Skills
The Importance of Cognitive
and Noncognitive Skills
Argument
An emerging body of evidence shows that,
Polarization

Skills
as is intuitively obvious and commonsensical,
Abilities and much more than smarts are required.
Outcomes

Explanations

Critical and
– Motivation
Sensitive
Periods
– Sociability; ability to work with others
Circuits – Attention
Summary – Self Regulation
– Self Esteem
– Time Preference
– Health and Mental Health
The Importance of Cognitive
and Noncognitive Skills
Argument
The GED program is a second chance program
Polarization

Skills
given to secondary school dropouts.
Abilities and
Outcomes
Participation in the GED program is growing.
Explanations

Critical and
Currently 20% of U.S. high school “graduates”
Sensitive
Periods
are dropouts who exam certify.
Circuits

Summary
The Importance of Cognitive
and Noncognitive Skills
Argument
GEDs are required to pass a test of
Polarization

Skills
cognitive abilities.
Abilities and
Outcomes
Level relatively low — at the grade 8
Explanations

Critical and
to grade 10 level.
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits Test is successful in its own terms.


Summary
Density of Age Adjusted AFQT Scores,
GED Recipients and High School Graduates
with Twelve Years of Schooling
Argument 35 White Males White Females

Polarization
30
Skills

Abilities and 25
Outcomes

Explanations 20

Critical and
Sensitive 15
Periods

Circuits 10

Summary
5

-2.5 -2 -1.5 -1 -0.5 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 -2.5 -2 -1.5 -1 -0.5 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5

High School Graduates


GEDs

Source: Heckman, Hsee and Rubinstein (2001)


Density of Age Adjusted AFQT Scores,
GED Recipients and High School Graduates
with Twelve Years of Schooling
Argument 40 Black Males Black Females

Polarization
35
Skills

Abilities and 30

Outcomes
25
Explanations

Critical and 20

Sensitive
Periods 15

Circuits
10
Summary
5

-2.5 -2 -1.5 -1 -0.5 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 -2.5 -2 -1.5 -1 -0.5 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5

High School Graduates


GEDs

Source: Heckman, Hsee and Rubinstein (2001)


Abilities
Argument

Polarization

Skills

and Outcomes
Abilities and
Outcomes

Explanations

Critical and
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary
Ever Been in Jail by Age 30, By Ability (Males)

Argument .15

Polarization

Skills

Abilities and .10

Outcomes
Probability

Explanations

Critical and .05


Sensitive
Periods

Circuits
.00
Summary
0 – 20 21 – 40 41 – 60 61 – 80 81 – 100
Percentile

Cognitive
Noncognitive
Note: This figure plots the probability of a given behavior associated with moving up in one ability distribution for someone after
integrating out the other distribution. For example, the lines with markers show the effect of increasing noncognitive ability after
integrating the cognitive ability.

Source: Heckman, Stixrud, and Urzua (2006).


Probability of Being Single With Children
(Females)

Argument .10

Polarization

Skills .08

Abilities and
Outcomes
Probability

.06
Explanations

Critical and
Sensitive .04
Periods

Circuits
.02
Summary
0 – 20 21 – 40 41 – 60 61 – 80 81 – 100
Percentile

Cognitive
Noncognitive
Note: This figure plots the probability of a given behavior associated with moving up in one ability distribution for someone after
integrating out the other distribution. For example, the lines with markers show the effect of increasing noncognitive ability after
integrating the cognitive ability.

Source: Heckman, Stixrud, and Urzua (2006).


Probability of Being a 4-year College Graduate
by Age 30 (Males)

Argument 1.0 By Decile of Cognitive Factor By Decile of Noncognitive Factor

Polarization
Probability and Confidence Interval (2.5 – 97.5%)

Skills
0.8
Abilities and
Outcomes
0.6
Explanations

Critical and
Sensitive
0.4
Periods

Circuits
0.2
Summary

0.0

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Decile

Notes: The data are simulated from the estimates of the model and our NLSY79 sample. We use the standard convention that higher
deciles are associated with higher values of the variable. The confidence intervals are computed using bootstrapping (200 draws).
Mean Log Wages by Age 30 (Males)

Argument 3.0 By Decile of Cognitive Factor By Decile of Noncognitive Factor

Polarization
Log Wages and Confidence Interval (2.75 – 97.5%)

Skills 2.5

Abilities and
Outcomes 2.0

Explanations

Critical and 1.5

Sensitive
Periods
1.0
Circuits

Summary 0.5

0.0

2 4 6 8 10 2 4 6 8 10
Decile

Notes: The data are simulated from the estimates of the model and our NLSY79 sample. We use the standard convention that higher
deciles are associated with higher values of the variable. The confidence intervals are computed using bootstrapping (50 draws).
Abilities and Outcomes

Argument
Controlling for ability measured at age 18,
Polarization

Skills
minorities are more likely to attend college
Abilities and than others despite their lower family incomes
Outcomes
(Cameron and Heckman, 2001).
Explanations

Critical and
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary
Can ability differences explain racial-ethnic
schooling gaps?

Argument
High School Completion Gap
Polarization

Skills White-Black White-Hispanic


Gap Gap
Abilities and
Outcomes
Actual White-Minority Gap .06 (.01) .14 (.02)
Explanations
Ability Adjusted Gap -.14 (.03) -.12 (.04)
Critical and
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary

Source: Cameron and Heckman (2001)


Can ability differences explain racial-ethnic
schooling gaps?

Argument
College Entry Probabilities Given High School Completion
Polarization

Skills White-Black White-Hispanic


Gap Gap
Abilities and
Outcomes
Actual White-Minority Gap .11 (.02) .07 (.02)
Explanations
Ability Adjusted Gap -.14 (.02) -.14 (.04)
Critical and
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary

Source: Cameron and Heckman (2001)


Abilities and Outcomes

Argument
Gaps in the abilities that play such an important
Polarization

Skills
role in determining diverse adult labor
Abilities and market and health outcomes open up early
Outcomes
across income groups.
Explanations

Critical and
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary
Trend in Mean Cognitive Score by
Maternal Education

Argument 1.5

Polarization

Skills 1.0
Mean Cognitive Score

Abilities and
Outcomes
0.5
Explanations

Critical and
Sensitive 0.0
Periods

Circuits
-0.5
Summary
3 5 8 18
Age in Years

College Graduate
Some College Education
High School Graduate
Less than High School

Each score standardized within observed sample. Using all observations and assuming data missing at random.

Source: Brooks-Gunn et al. (2006).


Figure D1a. Average Percentile Rank on
PIAT-Math Score, by Income Quartile

Argument 65

Polarization
60
Skills
Score Percentile

Abilities and 55

Outcomes
50
Explanations

Critical and 45
Sensitive
Periods 40

Circuits
35
Summary
6 Yrs 8 Yrs 10 Yrs 12 Yrs
Age

Lowest Income Quartile


Second Income Quartile
Third Income Quartile
Highest Income Quartile
Figure D1b. Adjusted Average PIAT-Math Score
Percentiles, by Income Quartile

Argument 65

Polarization
60
Skills
Score Percentile

Abilities and 55

Outcomes
50
Explanations

Critical and 45
Sensitive
Periods 40

Circuits
35
Summary 6 Yrs 8 Yrs 10 Yrs 12 Yrs
Age

Lowest Income Quartile


Second Income Quartile
Third Income Quartile
Highest Income Quartile

*Residualized on maternal education, maternal AFQT (corrected for the effect of schooling) and broken home at each age.
Figure D3a. Average Percentile Rank on
Anti-Social Behavior Score, by Income Quartile

Argument 55

Polarization
50
Skills
45
Score Percentile

Abilities and
Outcomes 40

Explanations 35

Critical and
30
Sensitive
Periods
25
Circuits
20
Summary
4 Yrs 6 Yrs 8 Yrs 10 Yrs 12 Yrs
Age

Lowest Income Quartile


Second Income Quartile
Third Income Quartile
Highest Income Quartile
Figure D3b. Adjusted Average Anti-Social
Behavior Score Percentile, by Income Quartile

Argument 60

Polarization
55
Skills
50
Abilities and
Outcomes 45
Score Percentile

Explanations 40

Critical and
35
Sensitive
Periods
30
Circuits
25
Summary
20

4 Yrs 6 Yrs 8 Yrs 10 Yrs 12 Yrs


Age

Lowest Income Quartile


Second Income Quartile
Third Income Quartile
Highest Income Quartile

*Residualized on maternal education, maternal AFQT (corrected for the effect of schooling) and broken home at each age.
Abilities and Outcomes

Argument
Gaps also emerge in health. These appear
Polarization

Skills
to diverge with age, at least in the U.S.
Abilities and
Outcomes
Similar gaps by age in the U.S., Canada,
Explanations

Critical and
and United Kingdom
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary
Health and Income For Children and Adults, U.S.
National Health Interview Survey 1986 – 1995*

Argument 2.50

Polarization
2.25
Skills

Abilities and 2.00


Outcomes
Health Status*

Explanations 1.75

Critical and
Sensitive 1.50
Periods

Circuits 1.25

Summary
1.00

8 9 10 11
LN (Family Income)
Ages 0 – 3
Ages 4 – 8
Ages 9 – 12
Ages 13 – 17

*(Scale ranges from 1 = Excellent to 5 = Poor)

* From Case, A., Lubotsky, D. & Paxson, C. (2002), American Economic Review, Vol.
92, 1308 – 1334.
Abilities and Outcomes

Argument
Gaps in cognitive and noncognitive skills
Polarization

Skills
of children have counterparts in gaps in family
Abilities and investments and environments.
Outcomes

Explanations

Critical and
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary
Cognitive Stimulation: Age 0 – 2,
White, by Family Type

Argument 0.05 Males

Polarization
0.04
Skills

Abilities and
0.03
Outcomes
Density

Explanations 0.02

Critical and
Sensitive 0.01
Periods

Circuits 0.00

Summary -2 -1.5 -1 -.5 0 .5 1 1.5 2


Cognitive Stimulation

Single Mom
Broken
Intact

Source: Seong Hyeok Moon (2008) analysis of CNLSY data


Cognitive Stimulation: Age 10 – 11,
White, by Family Type

Argument 0.06 Females

Polarization
0.05
Skills

Abilities and
0.04
Outcomes
Density

Explanations 0.03
Critical and
Sensitive 0.02
Periods

Circuits 0.01

Summary
0.00

-2 -1.5 -1 -.5 0 .5 1 1.5 2


Cognitive Stimulation

Single Mom
Broken
Intact

Source: Seong Hyeok Moon (2008) analysis of CNLSY data


Explanations
Argument

Polarization

Skills

Abilities and
Outcomes

Explanations

Critical and
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary
Family
Argument

Polarization

Skills

Environments
Abilities and
Outcomes

Explanations

Critical and
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary
Percent of Children Under 18 Living with
One Parent, By Marital Status of Single Parent

Argument 35%

Polarization
Percentage of Children Under 18 in Single Parent Families

30
Skills

Abilities and 25
Outcomes

Explanations 20

Critical and
Sensitive 15
Periods

Circuits 10

Summary
5

1968 70 72 74 76 78 80 82 84 86 88 90 92 94 96 98 00 02 04 06

Never Married
Widowed
Married, Spouse Absent
Divorced
Trends in Single Motherhood, 1960 to 2000

Argument 50%

Polarization

Skills 40

Abilities and
Outcomes 30
Percentage

Explanations

Critical and 20

Sensitive
Periods
10
Circuits

Summary 0

1960 1970 1980 1990 2000

Low Education
Middle Education
High Education

Note: Single motherhood is defined as not being married or not living with a spouse.

Source: PUMS (1960 – 2000).


Mothers’ Speech and Child Vocabulary

Argument 800

Polarization

Skills
600
Vocabulary Size (Words)

Abilities and
Outcomes

Explanations 400

Critical and
Sensitive
Periods 200

Circuits

Summary 0

12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26
Age in Months

High Level of Mothers’ Speech to Their Infants


Medium Level of Mothers’ Speech to Their Infants
Low Level of Mothers’ Speech to Their Infants

Source: Huttenlocher et al. (1991)


Gene-
Argument

Polarization

Skills

Environment
Abilities and
Outcomes

Explanations

Interactions
Critical and
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary
Methylation Patterns in Young and Old Twins

Argument
3-year-old twins 50-year-old twins
Polarization

Skills

Abilities and
Outcomes

Explanations

Critical and
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary

Source: Fraga, Ballestar et. al. (2005)


Examples of
Argument

Polarization

Skills

How Genes
Abilities and
Outcomes

Explanations

are Triggered
Critical and
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

by Environments
Summary
Childhood Maltreatment
Age 3 –11 in Dunedin Cohort

Argument Maternal Rejection (14%)


Polarization Harsh Discipline (10%)
Skills Caregiver Changes (6%)
Abilities and
Physical Abuse (4%)
Outcomes

Explanations
Sexual Abuse (12%)
Critical and
Sensitive
Periods
None 1 type ≥2
Circuits

Summary

No Probable Definite

Source: Moffitt, “Gene-Environment Interaction in Problematic and Successful Aging,”


NIA Meeting Feb 12, 2008.
Male Conduct Disorder: Child Maltreatment
Interacts with MAOA Genotype

Argument 100%

Polarization

Skills 80 Low MAOA activity

Abilities and
% Conduct Disorder

Outcomes 60

Explanations

Critical and 40

Sensitive
Periods
20
Circuits

Summary 0

Low Mild Severe


Child Maltreatment

Low MAOA Activity


High MAOA Activity

Caspi, McClay et al. (2002).


Critical and
Argument

Polarization

Skills

Sensitive Periods
Abilities and
Outcomes

Explanations

Critical and
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary
Critical and Sensitive Periods

Argument
Sensitive and critical periods have been
Polarization

Skills
documented extensively for:
Abilities and
Outcomes
– Binocular vision in the cortex of mammals,
Explanations

Critical and
– Filial imprinting in the forebrain of ducks
Sensitive
Periods
and chickens,
Circuits – Language acquisition in humans
Summary (Newport, 2002)
Critical and Sensitive Periods

Argument
Sensitive and critical periods have been
Polarization

Skills
documented extensively for (continued):
Abilities and
Outcomes
– Early vitamin/nutrient deficiencies can
Explanations

Critical and
have substantial lasting negative effects
Sensitive
Periods
on human development.
Circuits – E.g., Iron; Vitamin A; Iodine
Summary – Blindness, Impaired IQ, etc.
– Difficult to remediate at later ages
Critical and Sensitive Periods

Argument
Enriched Early Environments
Polarization

Skills
Compensate In Part For the Risks Arising
Abilities and from Disadvantaged Environments
Outcomes

Explanations

Critical and
– Main mechanism of intervention arises from
Sensitive
Periods
noncognitive or personality investments.
Circuits

Summary
High/Scope
Argument

Polarization

Skills

Perry Preschool
Abilities and
Outcomes

Explanations

Program
Critical and
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary
High/Scope Perry
Preschool Program
Argument
The Perry preschool program enriched the
Polarization

Skills
lives of low income black children with initial
Abilities and IQs below 85 at age 3.
Outcomes
– 2.5 hours per day
Explanations

Critical and
– 5 days per week
Sensitive
Periods
– 2 years during each school year
Circuits (mid-October to May)
Summary – Home visits
– Program stops after two years
Perry Preschool Program: IQ, By Age
and Treatment Group

Argument 100

Polarization

Skills 95

Abilities and
Outcomes 90

Explanations
IQ

Critical and 85

Sensitive
Periods
80
Circuits

Summary 75

Entry 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Age

Treatment Group
Control Group

Source: Perry Preschool Program. IQ measured on the Stanford Binet Intelligence Scale
(Terman & Merrill, 1960). Test was administered at program entry and each of the ages indicated.
High/Scope Perry
Preschool Program
Argument
Yet has a statistically significant rate of return
Polarization

Skills
of around 7 – 10% per annum — for both boys
Abilities and and girls — above the post World War II stock
Outcomes
market returns to equity in U.S. labor market
Explanations

Critical and
estimated to be 5.8%.
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary
Perry Age 14 Total CAT Scores,
by Treatment Group

Argument 40 Control Treatment

Polarization

Skills
30
Abilities and
Outcomes
Number of Subjects

Explanations

Critical and 20

Sensitive
Periods

Circuits 10

Summary

0 20 40 60 80 100% 0 20 40 60 80 100%

CAT = California Achievement Test


Treatment: N = 49; Control: N = 46
Statistically Significant Effect for Males and Females (p-values 0.009, 0.021 respectively)

Source: Heckman, Malofeeva, Pinto, and Savelyev (2008).


Later
Argument

Polarization

Skills

Remediation is
Abilities and
Outcomes

Explanations

Costly and Often


Critical and
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Ineffective
Summary
Later Remediation is Costly
and Often Ineffective
Argument
As currently implemented, most adolescent
Polarization

Skills
remediation efforts, especially those
Abilities and targeted toward raising adolescent cognitive
Outcomes
abilities targeted toward the disadvantaged
Explanations

Critical and
have low returns.
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary
Later Remediation is Costly
and Often Ineffective
Argument
For example:
Polarization

Skills
– Active labor market programs
Abilities and – Class size reductions (reducing class size
Outcomes
by five pupils per classroom)
Explanations

Critical and
– Adult literacy programs
Sensitive
Periods
– Public job training programs
Circuits – Tuition reduction policy
Summary
Circuits
Argument

Polarization

Skills

Abilities and
Outcomes

Explanations

Critical and
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary
Circuits

Argument
Data from non-controlled assessments
Polarization

Skills
of Head Start and the Chicago
Abilities and Child-Parent Centers programs suggest
Outcomes
similar conclusions.
Explanations

Critical and
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary
The Abecedarian
Argument

Polarization

Skills

Program
Abilities and
Outcomes

Explanations

Critical and
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary
The Abecedarian Program

Argument
Intervening at an early enough age can actually
Polarization

Skills
raise the IQ of the participants.
Abilities and
Outcomes
In the more intensive, earlier starting
Explanations

Critical and
Abecedarian program, IQ gains were found.
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary
Abecedarian Program: IQ, by Age
and Treatment Group

Argument 100

Polarization

Skills 95

Abilities and
Outcomes 90

Explanations
IQ

Critical and 85

Sensitive
Periods
80
Circuits

Summary 75

6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
Age

Treatment Group
Control Group

Source: Barnett (2004).


The Abecedarian Program

Argument
Several observations about the evidence from
Polarization

Skills
the available intervention studies are relevant.
Abilities and
Outcomes
First, skills beget skills.
Explanations

Critical and
Sensitive
Periods
All capabilities are built on a foundation
Circuits of capacities that are developed earlier.
Summary
The Abecedarian Program

Argument
This principle stems from two characteristics
Polarization

Skills
that are intrinsic to the nature of learning:
Abilities and – Early learning confers value on acquired
Outcomes
skills, which leads to self-reinforcing
Explanations

Critical and
motivation to learn more,
Sensitive
Periods
and
Circuits – Early mastery of a range of cognitive, social,
Summary and emotional competencies makes learning
at later ages more efficient and therefore
easier and more likely to continue.
The Abecedarian Program

Argument
Second, early intervention lowers the cost of
Polarization

Skills
later investment.
Abilities and
Outcomes
Public job training programs, adult literacy
Explanations

Critical and
services, prisoner rehabilitation programs,
Sensitive
Periods
and education programs for disadvantaged
Circuits adults at current levels of expenditure produce
Summary low economic returns.
Figure 19: Returns to a Unit Dollar Invested

Returns Per Annum to a Unit Dollar Invested

Argument

Polarization

Skills

Abilities and
Outcomes

Explanations

Critical and
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary
Summary
Argument

Polarization

Skills

Abilities and
Outcomes

Explanations

Critical and
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits

Summary
Summary

Argument
Skills matter.
Polarization

Skills

Abilities and America has a skills problem. So do many


Outcomes
other countries. Rising inequality is a signal of
Explanations

Critical and
this problem.
Sensitive
Periods

Circuits American society is becoming polarized


Summary by education:
– More college graduates
– More dropouts
Summary

Argument
More than smarts is required for success.
Polarization

Skills

Abilities and Social policy overemphasizes smarts.


Outcomes

Explanations

Critical and
Soft skills have been documented to
Sensitive
Periods
be “hard”­— we can measure them, and they
Circuits are predictive.
Summary

Skill gaps emerge early and can be traced in


part to adverse early environments.
Summary

Argument
Schools and tuition do not matter as
Polarization

Skills
much as is often thought.
Abilities and
Outcomes
Late remediation not very effective.
Explanations

Critical and
Sensitive
Periods
Remediation can work, but is costly.
Circuits

Summary Social policy should be directed toward


the malleable early years, if we want to
successfully address these problems.