Journal Article

The Economics of Early Intervention for Handicapped Children

What Do We Really Know?

By Barnett, W. S., & Escobar, C. M. (1988).

From an economic perspective, early intervention is an investment that can be evaluated in terms of its costs and the benefits it yields through improvements in the quality of children’s lives and indirect returns to the community, such as reduced special education costs. In this article, the empirical research on the economics of early educational intervention for handicapped children is reviewed and critically assessed. Statements that early intervention is cost-effective for handicapped children generally or that “earlier is better” could not be empirically substantiated. This is not to say that these widely held views have been proven untrue. Few methodologically sound economic studies have been conducted, and much work remains to be done.

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The Authors

W. Steven (Steve) Barnett is a Board of Governors Professor and the founder and Senior Co-Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University. Dr. Barnett’s work primarily focuses on public policies regarding early childhood education, child care, and child development.