Within the job training world, there are those  writers who receive far more attention in the
media than they deserve (Robert Reich), and those that receive far less. Timothy
Bartik is among the latter. An economist with the Upjohn Institute for
Employment Research in Michigan, Bartik’s work is consistently characterized by
serious research and original thought.  Over
the past  decade he has written a series
of articles and book s on labor
demand policies
, wage
, and  a national
job creation tax credit

Bartik’s latest work focuses on early childhood programs,
and their link to a region’s job growth. This work arises in part his own
experience as a school board member in Kalamazoo Michigan, from 2000-2008. In
this capacity, he had opportunity to observe pre-school programs, particularly
those focused on low-income families, in the context of allocating limited Kalamazoo
School District resources. 

Bartik spent several years examining the research on early
childhood programs and thinking about what, if any, link they might have with
economic  growth in a state or region. Investing
in Kids: Early Childhood Programs and Local Economic Development
Institute, 2011) is the result of his research. It is a detailed review of a
range of early childhood programs: from the Nurse Family Partnership of home
visitations to low income mothers,  to
pre-kindergarten classes for four year olds, to the very expensive $80,000 per
child Abecedarian program of full-time child care and pre-school from shortly
after birth to age 5.

Bartik argues that these programs are among the most
worthwhile human capital investments, with the more intensive and costly
programs generally yielding  the greater
results. The economic benefits are in increased worker wages, related increased
consumer demand, and decreased social costs. Bartik roughly estimates that the
per capita incomes are increased by $3 for every dollar spent. On a state by
state basis he finds investment in pre-K in California yields the second
highest ratio in the nation.

We often hear of the high mobility of Americans.  Yet, Bartik notes that two-thirds of all
Americans spend most of their career in the state in which they grew up, and over
50% are in the metropolitan region in which they grew up . Improved worker  productivity through pre-K investment makes
economic sense for individual states and regions, as well as across the

The individual state and region argument is one that Bartik
emphasizes as he notes that the President’s State of the Union address last
month included educational initiatives in K-12 and higher education, but not
pre-school. Bartik looks to the state and regions for greater investment.

Though proponents of early childhood programs will find the
book to be a ringing endorsement of these programs, it is not clear that
opponents will be convinced. In early internet feedback to the book,  some commentators have questioned whether
government should play a role in pre-school. More widely, the reaction has
fallen along the lines for and against increased tax revenue to pay for the
costs of these programs, especially in the current time.

Further, it should be noted that in an indication of how publishing
has changed, Bartik himself has taken to the internet, to generate interest in
the book, and attempt to refute his critics. He is blogging regularly about the
book on http://investinginkids.net.  The blogging provides some of the richest