This week’s #TCFBest winner comes to us from Emily Badger (@emilymbadger), who says that if we’re really serious about about reducing inequality, the very best thing we could possibly do would be to expand pre-k programs. Badger’s post at The Atlantic Cities highlights a new study showing that universal preschool could

increase social mobility, reduce income inequality, raise college graduation rates, improve criminal behavior (saving some of the societal expenses associated with it), and yield higher tax revenue thanks to an increase in lifetime wages.

Indeed, the study shows that each dollar invested in early education programs yields diminishing returns as a child ages.

Returns to a Unit Dollar Invested

The upshot: Investing in pre-k programs is one of the best bang-for-the-buck investements we can make.

This fact should come as no surprise to regular readers of Blog of the Century. Back in February, Greg Anrig sorted out the early childhood research on the cost-effectiveness of universal preschool. Anrig responded to the charges that universal preschool is too expensive by noting that a recent long-term study found that a Chicago preschool program for low-income families “provided a return to society of $10.83 for every dollar invested.” That’s pretty much right in line with the numbers that Badger cites.

As Jeanne L. Reid pointed out a few days later, the issue of whether preschool is a worthy investment “has been largely settled” in the affirmative. The question is not whether we should be investing in universal preschool. The only real question is what those programs should look like.