Labor market returns to early childhood stimulation: A 20-year followup to an experimental intervention in Jamaica

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A randomized intervention that gave psychosocial stimulation to stunted Jamaican toddlers living in poverty was shown to have large effects on the earnings of participants. The intervention consisted of one-hour weekly visits from community Jamaican health workers over a 2-year period that taught parenting skills and encouraged mothers to interact and play with their children in ways that would develop their children’s cognitive and personality skills. The study participants were reinterviewed 20 years after the intervention. Stimulation increased the average earnings of participants by 42 percent. Treatment group earnings caught up to the earnings of a matched non-stunted comparison group. These findings show that psychosocial stimulation early in childhood in disadvantaged settings can have substantial effects on labour market outcomes and reduce later life inequality.

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