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The Costs of Not Investing in Early Childhood Development Keep Adding Up
Early learners in Wilder's Child Development Center.

​Our approach to spending on early learning in Minnesota has loaded the dice against the success of many of our children. Instead, we have loaded the dice to waste and lose money.

Not because budgets are too large or misspent, but because not enough is invested in the early learning of children. Without more investment, low-income children are more likely to start school at a disadvantage, leading to school failure and its lifetime consequences of low earnings and a greater likelihood of welfare dependence, substance abuse, and criminal convictions. Our future workforce is also diminished.

For every child who enters kindergarten at a disadvantage, the probable public and private costs of special education, welfare and unemployment assistance, lost tax revenues, substance abuse treatment, and costs associated with crime add up over a lifetime to $56,000.

In the long run, it is a lot cheaper to invest in preventing school failure than to live with its ramifications.

Right now, because more than 70,000 of the 156,000 low-income children age 5 and younger in Minnesota lack access to effective early learning opportunities, the dice are loaded to waste and lose money. If we don’t invest in future kindergarten cohorts, if we don’t load the dice to favor savings and revenue, the waste and costs will continue to grow -- $56,000 per child, over and over and over again.

We have the opportunity to reap that $56,000 per child or to needlessly spend or lose that amount. That’s why investing in the healthy development and school readiness of low-income children is a smart investment.

Richard Chase is a Senior Research Manager in Wilder Research specializing in early childhood.

Above: Story time at Wilder’s Child Development Center. Photo credit: Greg Helgeson




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Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, 451 Lexington Parkway North, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55104 Phone: 651-280-2000
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