Early childhood education is an economic investment, according to a Minneapolis economist visiting Missouri. Jessica Machetta reports…

Rob Grunewald works for the Federal Reserve, but he’s also co-authored a policy paper titled "Early Childhood Development: Economic Development with a High Public Return." His study has been looked at by policy makers and in legislative hearings throughout the U.S.

He says government should make an economic investment by providing early childhood education, especially to at-risk families.

Grunewald says 85 percent of children’s brains are developed by the time they’re three years old, and that studies show where they are stacked among their peers by the time they enter Kindergarten is likely where they’ll remain for the rest of their lives.

"Because of that, the environment in early years is so impactful to children, we believe investments should be made in those early years," he says.

He says they’re less likely to need remedial education, are more likely to graduate on time, make more money once entering the workforce, which means they pay more taxes, and are less likely to commit crime.

He says while many states have some pieces in place, a more comprehensive approach needs to be taken. Economists have shown that return can be as high as 20 percent. Grunewald says over the last five years, a number of states have been investing more in pre-school programs, childcare facilities and home visits for at-risk expectant mothers, but that’s not enough.

Grunewald, Associate Economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, will give a free public presentation entitled "Early Childhood Development: Economic Development with a High Public Return" at 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 18, in the Coulter Lecture Hall of the Coulter Science Center on the Westminster College campus.

Jessica Machetta reports [Download/listen MP3]