Keynote Address by Professor James J. HECKMAN: ‘The Economic Case for Investing in Early Childhood Development’

In this Keynote Address, Professor James J. Heckman will present the economic case for early childhood investment. Making wise investments in early childhood development programmes for disadvantaged children from birth to age five produces benefits far greater than the costs by amplifying the effects of skill development across the life cycle. Life cycle skill formation is dynamic in nature. Skill begets skill; motivation begets motivation. Because of this dynamic, early investments produce better education, health, social and economic outcomes and reduce the need for expensive social spending on correctional services and other costly remediation. It is a strategy of prevention, not remediation. Inequality in skills leads to economic inequality. By addressing the skills problem, we can create social equity without any trade-off in economic efficiency. Efforts to reduce inequality, increase productivity and lower deficits have been mired in politics and polarisation instead of practicality, but a smart investment strategy can help disadvantaged families build better skills in their children through effective early childhood development programmes.