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Assessing Costs and Benefits of Early Childhood Intervention Programs. Overview and Applicaton to the Starting Early Starting Smart Program

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Agency and program administrators and decisionmakers responsible for implementing early childhood intervention programs are becoming more interested in quantifying the costs and benefits of such programs. Part of the reason for this is that foundations and other funders are putting more emphasis on results-based accountability. At the same time, arguments for the value of early childhood intervention are being made within the public sphere on the basis of published estimates of costs and benefits. Program implementers are naturally attracted by statements that a certain intervention produces 4 in savings for every 1 it costs and would like to make similar statements about their own programs. Meanwhile, decisionmakers without particular interest in any given program would like more quantitative decision aids when it comes time to choose among a variety of possible program models or program improvements to implement. Our objective here is to offer assistance to decisionmakers and program implementers considering an assessment of costs and out- comes. We do not offer a specific step-by-step manual, but we discuss the kinds of issues that must be taken into account and why. We do so in enough detail that readers can decide if this type of quantitative analysis is the right course for them and, if so, can knowledgeably interact with an expert cost-outcome analyst. While we understand that some readers will want to undertake analysis of costs and outcomes to justify a program in which they have a special interest, we take the viewpoint here of an unbiased allocator of funds. What evidence should such a person want to see before concluding that a particular intervention is a wise investment That sort of evidence is what the implementer seeking to justify further funding will need to present.

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  • Sociology and Law
  • Psychology

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