How to break the poverty cycle

How much good does a pre-school experience offer children born in poverty? Enough to make their later lives much better, and they pass a heritage of opportunity on to their own children.

In 1962, 58 African-American three-to four-year-olds, all from poor families and likely candidates for failure in school, enrolled in Perry Pre-school in Ypsilanti, Michigan. This was a novel venture, and parents clamoured to sign their children up. Ms Louise Derman-Sparks, who taught there, told me she "fell in love with the kids. They were so excited, so intelligent, so curious".

Because the demand could not be satisfied, 65 applicants were turned away. They became the control group in an experiment that confirmed the importance of a child's first years.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2019, with the headline 'How to break the poverty cycle'. Subscribe