Early-Life Education and Late-Life Health: Exposure to Pre-School 1943-46 and Well-Being After Age 50

Project Summary

The project team is assessing the impact of preschool education on the long-term economic and health outcomes of children who were exposed to Lanham nursery schools. From 1942 through 1946 under the National Defense Housing Act of 1940, popularly known as the Lanham Act, the Federal Works Agency provided funds to local school districts to operate nursery schools. The team has identified the places that received Lanham funds for nursery care along with a group of control sites that did not receive the funds. The team is following the two groups born 1938-1948 over the entire life course to assess the impact of early-life education.

Photo courtesy of Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources: Medical checkup at Kaiser Oregonship child development center, circa 1944. 

Research Question(s)

  • Does preschool attendance have a causal effect on later-life health similar to the effect of additional years of schooling at older ages?
  • Is there a greater benefit for individuals with lower SES?
  • Are there income benefits that extend through retirement?
  • Are there cognitive benefits that extend into older ages?
  • Do other benefits emerge only late in life?


  • Guide policymakers in allocating resources efficiently across the lifecourse, by providing more comprehensive measures of the lifelong benefits, if any, of exposure to early schooling opportunities for a subset of the population.


Health: Health through adulthood and later life

Other: test scores and behavioral assessments in high school, income through adulthood, and later life cognitive functioning


The investigators are using an Intent-to-treat analysis to compare the treatment group to the control group. Data is being compiled by identifying individuals in treated and control populations who were also participants in Project Talent, a nationally-representative study that surveyed and tested five percent of the U.S. high school population in 1960. 

Old image of teacher with students (1940's)
Grantee and Partner organizations

American Institutes for Research

Grant status
Principal investigators
Taletha Derrington, PhD
Joseph Ferrie, PhD
Start date
Award amount
36 months

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