The goal of this project is to collect, augment and analyze data on the HighScope Perry Preschool Program (PPP) in order to investigate the effects of this influential early intervention on a variety of outcomes through midlife. The Perry Preschool Program was targeted towards a disadvantaged African American population. Evaluated by the method of random assignment, participants have been followed through age 40. The annual rate of return to each dollar spent on Perry is in the range of 7-10% for both boys and girls. It was especially effective in reducing crime and has had beneficial effects on numerous other outcomes, which survive rigorous testing and statistical scrutiny. Reflecting its initial emphasis on promoting cognition and schooling, previous waves of the Perry data collected very limited information on health and personality and no information on risk aversion, time preferences, early childhood experiences, and plans for retirement, savings and asset positions. We seek support to supplement the dataset by collecting information, both contemporaneously and retrospectively, on key outcomes for an aging sample. We will draw questions from two major US surveys (HRS, the Health and Retirement Survey, and the PSID, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics), to facilitate comparison with outcomes for comparable persons in the aging US population. We will collect information on early childhood which will supplement existing (but previously unused) Perry data on the quality of early home environments. We will also collect objective health data on a set of biomarkers indicating physiological activity across major regulatory systems, and cognitive data using newly created adaptive tests. Primary survey data will be augmented with administrative data on crime and cause of death. Armed with this unique resource, the project will study the midlife effects of supplementing the early life environments of disadvantaged African American children. It will contribute to our understanding of the developmental origins of adult health, and it will explore the roots of aging. It will identify the mechanisms through which early life experiences affect adult outcomes, and it will investigate whether remediation can be sustained when intervening three years after birth. It will develop and apply methods to analyze data from small scale experiments, with multiple outcomes and alterations in the initial sampling plan. Using the enhanced experimental data, it will augment previous analyses of the benefit-cost and rate of return of the Perry Program to include the benefits-if any-on health and mental health both to persons and to society. In partnership with the Pritzker Consortium at the University of Chicago, and leveraging funding with it, we will go beyond meta-analysis to compare the PPP outcomes and mechanisms with those found for other major early childhood programs, including the Abecedarian Program, the Nurse Family Partnership Program, and the Chicago Parent-Child Centers.

Public Health Relevance

We investigate the effects on midlife outcomes including health, earnings, employability, and crime, of a flagship early childhood intervention targeted to supplement the family lives of disadvantaged children. We analyze the channels through which the intervention worked, and estimate the benefits, costs, and rate of return, including long-term benefits on health and aging of investing in early childhood.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-SSPS-H (09))
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Phillips, John
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National Opinion Research Center
United States
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