No study has been used to back up the lasting social and economic benefits of high-quality preschool for low-income children more than the HighScope Perry Preschool Study. Launched in 1962, the longitudinal study involved 123 African-American Ypsilanti preschoolers from Ypsilanti, Mich. The children, all of them from families living below the poverty line, were assigned to “treatment” and control groups.
At age 40, those who attended the small demonstration program in the 1960s were found to have higher rates of employment and homeownership, and lower rates of illicit drug use and arrests for selling illegal drugs, when compared with the sample of adults who did not attend the classes. Critics have said the sample size was too small and that it’s unrealistic to expect similar results from large-scale preschool programs without the same level of support.