Skip to Content
Resource Articles //

Generational Effects of the Perry Preschool Project

Participants’ early childhood education benefits their children, too.

Researchers have learned many lessons about early childhood education from the boys and girls of the Perry Preschool Project. And now, even as men and women in their 50s, the Perry participants are teaching us still.

The latest research in this groundbreaking project shows that a quality preschool education delivers multigenerational benefits. Children of the original Perry preschoolers are experiencing many of the same positive life outcomes as their parents in areas that include education, health, employment, and civic life.1

Generational Effects of the Perry Preschool Project

“These new findings indicate that high-quality early childhood programs have the potential to lift multiple generations out of poverty,” reads a summary of Intergenerational and Intragenerational Externalities of the Perry Preschool Project, research from Nobel laureate James Heckman and co-author Ganesh Karapakula. “Those treated in Perry were able to build the foundations for stronger family lives that resulted in larger gains for their children, despite living in similar or worse neighborhoods than the untreated families. The children of Perry participants are more educated, healthy, gainfully employed citizens who are more productive members of society.”2

What Is the Perry Preschool Project?

Between 1962 and 1967, a group of 3- and 4-year-old African American children began preschool at Perry Elementary School in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The children were from low-income families and had other risk factors associated with potentially poor academic performance. In collaboration with then-principal Charles Beatty, psychologist David Weikart set out to gauge the effect of early childhood education on the children and their communities. Weikart compared the students’ experiences and outcomes over time to those of children from the same neighborhoods who hadn’t attended preschool.

The results were striking. Over time, the original participants:3

  • Had fewer teenage pregnancies.
  • Were more likely to have graduated from high school.
  • Were more likely to hold a job and have higher earnings. 
  • Committed fewer crimes.
  • Owned their own home and car.  

The latest research from Heckman and his team shows that effective early childhood development also contributed to:1

  • More stable marriages.
  • A greater likelihood of providing the children with a more stable two-parent home in which to grow up. 
  • Having children slightly later in life.
  • Remaining stably married by the time their children turned 18.  

Enter the Next Generation

As Heckman and his research team continued to follow the lives of the Perry preschoolers, they observed more positive effects of early childhood education—this time on the participants’ children.

“The children of participants were less likely to be suspended from school, and more likely to complete regular or any other form of high school and to be employed full time with some college experience. While present for both male and female children of participants, the wide range of beneficial effects are particularly strong for the male children of participants, especially those of male participants,” reads the research summary.2

Researchers found that children of the Perry participants:1

  • Spend at least three times the amount of time with stably married parents before age 18. Boys of the male Perry participants spend 15 times the amount of time with stably married parents.
  • Are more educated, healthy, gainfully employed citizens who are productive members of society.
  • Excel in various life domains today despite growing up in neighborhoods that are similar or worse off than neighborhoods of the control group.

“The original group, it turns out they're more likely to have stable families and earnings,” Heckman said in an interview with National Public Radio. “So, they provide their own children with a nurturing environment, far richer than that is for the nontreated children. This is a social program that not only benefits the recipient, it goes on. And it's, you know, the gift that keeps on giving, if you will.”4

Foster Early Childhood Development

As we’ve learned from the Perry Preschool Project, an investment in early childhood education is critical to our success as individuals and as a society. An early childhood studies degree can help you contribute to creating healthier, happier lives.

An MS in Early Childhood Studies can equip you with the knowledge and experience to make a difference in the lives of the youngest students. And if you choose an online early childhood studies degree program, you can immediately use what you’re learning in your classroom or other workplace setting.

Walden University’s MS in Early Childhood Studies program utilizes coursework developed to reflect professional guidelines set forth by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Walden is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), the only recognized national accreditor for educator preparation.

When you choose Walden for your early childhood studies master’s program, you’ll:

  • Improve your ability to work with children in diverse learning environments by critically examining trends, applying research to relevant problems, and making informed decisions.
  • Develop as a leader in the early childhood field through specialization options in management, public policy and advocacy, instructional strategies, and diversity.
  • Put your newfound knowledge to work in a final capstone course that allows you to integrate and apply learning to real-world situations, issues, or problems.

Walden also offers a competency-based BS in Early Childhood Studies program that lets you expand your knowledge and experience while earning a degree on your time. The competency-based format gives you control over the pacing of your studies and the program cost. As part of this bachelor’s program, you’ll:

  • Analyze authentic, video-based case studies to develop inclusive, evidence-based practices in an early childhood setting.
  • Get hands-on training with two field experiences in different areas of expertise: infants and toddlers, and children in grades P–3.

When you earn a degree in early childhood studies, you can help improve the lives of your students—and, as the Perry Preschool Project shows, you may better the lives of the next generation, too. Invest in your future today and start building a brighter tomorrow.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Early Childhood Studies program as well as other education degree programs online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.


Walden offers both state-approved educator licensure programs as well as programs and courses that do not lead to licensure or endorsements. Prospective students must review their state licensure requirements prior to enrolling. For more information, please refer to

Walden University is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) for a period of seven years, from April 2019 through June 2026. This accreditation covers initial teacher preparation programs and advanced educator preparation programs. CAEP is the only recognized national accreditor for educator preparation, promoting excellence in educator preparation through quality assurance and continuous improvement. Walden University earned CAEP accreditation by meeting rigorous national standards and demonstrating excellence in the areas of content and pedagogy, clinical experiences, selectivity, program impact, and capacity for continuous improvement.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,