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New Report Focuses on Investing in Children
 
Published Thursday, February 16, 2017

As many as one in three children in NH face risks in early childhood that may compromise their development and readiness to succeed in school, resulting in poorer academic performance and lower graduation rates, according to a new RAND Corporation report prepared for the Endowment for Health.

The report looks at the state’s current early childhood investments—from birth to kindergarten—and compares the costs and benefits of increased funding for low-income children in specific evidence-based programs. For example, every dollar invested in a program in which nurses visit low-income, first-time mothers at their homes would produce benefits per child that exceed the cost of the program, specifically $4 to $6 for every dollar invested.

A high-quality one-year preschool program would generate close to $4 in benefits for every dollar invested if targeted toward children living in families with income below the federal poverty level (about $19,100 for a family with one adult and two children). The economic returns remain positive if the program was more widely available to the 45 percent of preschool-age children who live in families with income deemed below self-sufficiency (about three times the federal poverty level).

Among the reports key findings are:

  • New Hampshire has a significant at-risk population. While NH has a relatively low poverty rate of 12 percent for young children (ages 0 to 5 and net yet in kindergarten), after accounting for the income required to achieve an adequate standard of living (defined as three times the federal poverty level), 45 percent of the state’s young children live in families with income below that threshold.
  • At-risk children face continued disadvantages. Children who experience low income and other early life adversities enter school with lower levels of readiness than their more-advantaged peers. Public investments in young children in NH include home visiting in the first few years of life, subsidized child care, and early learning programs. These programs are not funded to reach all income-eligible children and their families, nor are they funded to reach higher up the income ladder where children still face risks in early childhood that could compromise their development.

 Among the reports recommendations are:

  • An investment portfolio of evidence-based programs across the span of the early childhood years.
  • Have alignment between the early childhood system and the K–12 systems, especially in the early elementary grades.
  • Include resources to monitor the quality of program implementation, evaluate new program models, and engage in continuous quality improvement.
  • Invest in integrated data systems to ensure that families and children can benefit from the continuum of offerings and to support monitoring and evaluation. Such data systems can be used to monitor participation rates, identify populations that are not accessing program services, ensure a handoff from participation in one program to another as children mature, and support the process of contin

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