[OPE-L] qualified labor

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Mon Jun 18 2007 - 01:47:30 EDT

If the products of  skilled labor seem to be exchanging at a premium
and skilled workers themselves earning rents--and I am not saying
that there is in fact a skills shortage, a mismatch in the labor
market--perhaps one reason could be the difficulties faced by simple
average labor in completing special training, and the reason for this
would not be natural inequalities but socially created ones. The
normal capabilities of  simple average labor have been socially
depressed as a result of underinvestment in prenatal, perinatal care
and preschool education. Here we see that the theory of wage labor
needs to be elaborated to include a study of biological reproduction,
rearing and socialization of labor power.


the dismal science
Teach Your Children Well
The economic case for preschool.
By Joel Waldfogel
Posted Friday, May 25, 2007, at 7:36 AM ET

Softhearted people always advocate spending more on kids. But
according to a new and authoritative synthesis of available evidence,
there's a hardheaded case for investing more in young kids over older

In the United States, we've spent trillions of dollars over decades
on K-12 schooling in the hopes of making young people more
productive, or at least less criminally delinquent. The results have
been mixed. About 20 percent of the American workforce is essentially
illiterate (compared with 5 to 10 percent in Sweden or Germany),
creating a major drag on our international competitiveness. And an
astronomical 5.6 million adults in the United States have served time
in state or federal prison, with 1.3 million there currently. Their
incarceration, along with other costs of crime, costs us around $1.3
trillion a year.
Why doesn't all our spending on education buy better results? Nobel
Prize winner James Heckman of the University of Chicago and Dimitriy
Masterov of the University of Michigan argue that by waiting until
kindergarten, we throw money at kids when it's too late. Their
evidence urges shifting educational spending to younger children.
The early investment is needed, the authors argue, to supplement the
role of the family. Recent developments in neuroscience have shown
that the early years are vital to cognitive development, which in
turn is important to subsequent success and productivity in school,
life, and work. Early-childhood nurturing has traditionally been the
province of families. But families are deteriorating. Roughly one in
six kids was born into poverty or single parenthood or both in 1970.
In 2000, the rate was about one in four. What's more, almost 10
percent of children were born to unmarried teenage mothers in 1999;
these kids tend to receive especially low levels of emotional and
intellectual support and cognitive stimulation. They arrive at
kindergarten cognitively disadvantaged, and the gap widens as they
get older, eventually leading to early babies, lousy jobs, and
elevated crime.
Heckman and Masterov look at a number of pilot programs in
early-childhood education that have targeted high-risk kids in
disadvantaged families, and studied them into adulthood. These
programs are like Head Start, only more intensive. For example,
between 1962 and 1967, the Perry Project in Ypsilanti, Mich.,
provided two years of intensive preschool to a group of disadvantaged
3-year-old black children, chosen from an eligible pool by a coin
flip. The program consisted of a daily session of two and a half
hours and a weekly 90-minute teacher home visit. In today's dollars,
it would cost $10,000 per child per year.
Perry participants have been followed through age 40, and the program
has shown substantial benefits in educational achievement and other
social outcomes. Participants achieved greater literacy and higher
grades, and they were more likely to graduate high school. Later in
life, they were more likely to be employed-and to earn more-and less
likely to be on welfare. They also committed less crime and had lower
rates of teen pregnancy.
The authors estimate the rate of return for programs like the Perry
Project to be a substantial 16 percent. While some of this payback
accrues directly to the kids, in the form of higher earnings when
they're grown up, about three-quarters of it goes to the rest of us
in the form of lower crime and savings on prison spending. Heckman
and Masterov compare the return from investing in preschool kids with
the returns from lower class size in high school (smaller than the
return to preschool) and to GED programs (smaller still). They
propose that the return on investment declines with age, although
they don't offer a ton of quantitative evidence on this point.
The big economic return for intensive preschool for disadvantaged
kids has two implications. First, while many people advocate spending
on these kids for reasons of fairness or justice, Heckman and
Masterov make a different case. They're saying this preschool
spending is a sound economic investment. Each dollar we spend on
targeted, intensive preschool returns more than a dollar invested in,
say, a pretty good mutual fund.
Many families already make this investment on their own, either by
spending time with their kids or by purchasing high-quality child
care. Why involve governments? Well, Heckman and Masterov show that
if your kid goes to one of these programs, the rest of us get most of
the benefit. Economists assume that even if parents of disadvantaged
kids are rational and forward-looking-as if they didn't have enough
to worry about-they will invest in preschool only to boost their
kids' earnings and not to reduce crime and prison costs, which are
borne by the rest of us. As a result, even conscientious parents will
under-invest. So, Economics 101 tells you-granted, in an
end-of-semester lecture that you probably skipped-that clearly this
is a job for government.
The hardheaded case for Perry-like preschool extends beyond higher
pay and reduced crime. Unlike many efforts to boost
productivity-think trickle-down-this one would reduce inequality as
well, by raising the incomes of the disadvantaged. Investing in
preschools can also enhance international competitiveness. Much of
the growth in American standards of living over the past half-century
has flowed from our population's ever-increasing educational
attainment. But for the generations born since 1950, the growth has
stopped. The problem is not that a college education costs too much,
but rather that many disadvantaged kids aren't academically ready for
college when they finish high school. And Heckman and Masterov argue
that it stems from the academic deficits they bring to kindergarten.
If preschool whips them into shape, they'll be better prepared for
all the other steps along the way.
A sales problem remains: These programs invade the traditional
province of the family, and in Heckman and Masterov's conception,
they would target disadvantaged populations that are
disproportionately minority. Wanted: a credible and sympathetic
pitchman. Paging Barack Obama.
Joel Waldfogel is the Ehrenkranz Family Professor of business and
public policy at the Wharton School of the University of
Pennsylvania. His book, The Tyranny of the Market: Why You Can't
Always Get What You Want, will be published by Harvard University
Press this year.

Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2166852/
Copyright 2007 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC

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