Money, Mouths and Early Childhood Intervention Programmes

Earlier this year, Bryan Caplan wrote:
I have a dream that one day, people who refuse to bet on their statements will be viewed with greater contempt than those who bet and lose.
He is thinking of public figures putting their money where their mouth is, as in the famous Simon-Ehrlich wager. Now Michael Mandel writes that US congressman Jared Polis has a similar idea:
Polis, with a long history as an entrepreneur and an education supporter, was discussing ways to get the private sector to invest in desirable social goods, such as early childhood education. His point (broadly interpreted by me) was that there is a systematic market failure: Even if the social return on investment in early childhood education is high, as the data seems to show, there’s no way for private investors to take advantage of these opportunities.

In particular, the data seems to show that improving early childhood education seems to reduce a wide variety of government expenses, including crime and prisons. Polis suggested creating securities where private investors could put money into early childhood education, and at some point in the future get a share of the cost savings.
Charles Murray comments:
I think we all ought to get behind this idea, and thereby prompt some unsentimental hedge-fund guys to take a hard look at the claimed returns for early childhood intervention and the data that are being used to support those claims. I predict their technical conclusion will be “You can’t be serious.”
I've seen next to nothing of the relevant literature; what I have seen are wildly conflicting claims on the efficacy of early childhood intervention programmes that try to reduce various social ills - and from serious-seeming sources, too. As I still don't feel like reading up, I say let the games begin.


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