Kids in universal pre-K are more likely to attend college and graduate high school, study finds

Connecticut pre-k school coronavirus
  • A new study finds that children who attended universal pre-K were more likely to attend college.
  • Universal pre-K also seems to have positive behavioral impacts on attendees across race and income.
  • President Biden wants to establish universal pre-K and more affordable childcare in his new package.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden wants to establish universal pre-K as part of his infrastructure package, proposing a $200 billion investment. The White House estimates the program could benefit 5 million children, and save the average family $13,000.

But it could have a bigger impact: A new study finds that kids who attended universal pre-K are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college.

The study, conducted by researchers from University of Chicago, MIT, and UC Berkeley, looked at 4,000 public preschool applicants in Boston; they compared the outcomes of students randomly selected by lottery for the program versus those whose numbers were not called.

Attending that universal pre-K did not have a “detectable” impact on standardized test scores. It did, however, have notable impacts elsewhere: The students that enrolled in preschool were 6% more likely to graduate from high school. They were also likely to enroll in the SAT, and to enroll in college.

In the short term, too, students fared better behaviorally: The likelihood of juvenile incarceration went down, along with the total number of high-school suspensions. Benefits were widespread. Students across races and incomes felt benefits similarly, with boys seeing a slightly impact.

“Notwithstanding the gender difference, this study suggests that all students – regardless of race or income – are likely to benefit from a universal preschool program,” the researchers wrote in a brief.

Universal pre-K and affordable childcare could also have a big impact on parents

The American Families Plan contains several childcare-centered provisions, with universal pre-K as one of its planks. Biden has also proposed $225 billion in funding for affordable childcare. An analysis from the National Women’s Law Center and Columbia University found that access to affordable childcare doesn’t just benefit children; it could boost lifetime earnings for women with two children by $94,000.

Additionally, access to universal childcare options would also boost the number of women – especially mothers – in the workforce, an issue that’s come into stark relief with the surprisingly dismal April jobs report.

According to the NWLC and Columbia, expanding childcare access could increase the number of women with young children working full-time by 17%.

Biden has proposed increasing income tax rates for the wealthiest Americans and upping capital gains rate – along with closing some potential loopholes and cracking down on tax enforcement – to offset the costs of his childcare proposals.

“We can take … this money and pay for universal pre-K for every three- and four-year-old in America,” Biden said in remarks on the American Families Plan. He added that it’s a choice:

“[Is it] more important to shield millionaires from paying their fair share? Or is it more important that every child gets a real opportunity to succeed from an early age and ease the burden on working families?”