The tragic events of 2020 have changed society forever. Since March over 210,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 with 7.4 million people infected. By comparison, the influenza pandemic of 1968 over its 3-year span was responsible for 100,000 U.S. deaths. COVID-19 is now the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S. As a result of the breathtaking speed at which the coronavirus pandemic has spread, most segments of economic activity shut down for extended periods of time, and this led to depression-era increases in unemployment.

The pandemic that rages on has further exposed and exacerbated fundamental racial inequalities at all levels of society that must be wiped out with urgency. The devastating effects of structural racism are not only observed in rates of COVID-19 prevalence, hospitalization, and death among Black Americans that are triple those of Whites, but in a series of brutal killings by police of unarmed people of color. The nationwide protests against this brutality and calls for major criminal justice and social reforms have had a force not seen since the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Although pandemics, racism, and economic recessions are not new, their combined effects plus the nationwide shutdown of workplaces, schools, and community centers has led to unprecedented needs. As with other sectors, science and disciplinary inquiry must change. Human capital research and social programs and policies must do better as well to ensure that the quality and effectiveness of investments increase, that we reassess and reflect upon past advances and shortcomings, and restructure accordingly.

Center Vision and Key Principles

The Human Capital Research Collaborative (HCRC) was founded in 2006 on the principle of improving the lives of young people and their families and communities through creating, assessing, and disseminating knowledge on the most effective social programs and policies for enhancing health and well-being. Working in partnership with families, schools, and community partners, scaling effective programs so that all young people can flourish and achieve their goals also is a fundamental principle. This can only happen if all forms racism, inequality, and barriers to equal opportunity end. If our perspectives and priorities moving forward are guided by tradition and inquiry that emphasizes the individual over higher and broader levels, we will surely fail to achieve the hoped for and necessary changes.

A macro-ecological orientation is essential for true progress from our current social and economic turmoil. This means high priority must be for scientific inquiry dedicated to research, intervention, and dissemination at the family, school-community, organizational, institutional, socio-cultural, and economic systems levels in enhancing individual children’s well-being.

The mission of HCRC is to identify, develop, evaluate, and disseminate effective programs and policies for improving well-being and eliminating educational and health disparities. This is of special importance for underserved populations, including people of color, those growing up and living in poverty, those disenfranchised by historic inequality racism, and segregation, and who otherwise have faced persistent barriers to opportunity. HCRC strives to accomplish this mission through critical analysis of ideas and evidence, teaching, and outreach that is without boundaries. This means boundless within and outside the university as well as across disciplines and service sectors. Given the events of 2020, these goals take on new meanings, and are of critical importance.

Society is not only segregated by race, ethnicity, and income but by fragmentation in specializations that lead to myopia in addressing social problems. Such myopia occurs in all organizational systems and service sectors. We believe this stifles innovation and progress. Emphasis on specialization and reductionism especially includes disciplines and departments within higher education in general. To better address growing challenges, HCRC is dedicated to truly interdisciplinary and cross-sector solutions in education, health, and human services that are innovative, effective, and scalable universally.

The science of human capital development in education and early childhood learning, prevention, health promotion, and evaluation research is to ensure that investments in programs, policies and practices work and achieve social benefits that help eradicate inequality, poverty, racism, and all barriers. The development, identification, and implementation of diverse strategies that redress these structural disparities are more important today than ever.

Download a PDF of this statement.

Aligned Curriculum and Collaborative Leadership are Key to School Reform

Sustaining early learning gains requires a comprehensive and effective system of services from preschool through the school-age years. This Brief describes the role of two key elements of sustaining gains: aligned curriculum and collaborative leadership. They are part of the Child-Parent Center P-3 school reform model. Metrics for measuring and implementing each of these elements are described and their relationship to student learning gains in Chicago and Saint Paul schools. Read the report here.

CLS Examines Midlife Cardiovascular and Mental Health

HCRC researchers are partnering with Northwestern University on a new phase of the seminal Chicago Longitudinal Study (CLS). Since 1985, the CLS has tracked the development of a group of 1,539 individuals who grew up in urban poverty. Intervention group members attended the Child-Parent Centers (CPC) beginning in preschool and continued participation through 2nd or 3rd grade. The new phase of CLS research, which began in spring 2017, further examines the connection between CPC participation, educational attainment, and physical and mental health outcomes at age 37-39.

The Power of P-3 school Reform

Early childhood education continues to be a high priority across the nation. Total public funding at all levels now exceeds $30 billion annually (Council of Economic Advisers, 2016), which amounts to a doubling of investment over the past two decades (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1999), while public-private sector initiatives, such as Pay for Success, have also helped expand access (Temple & Reynolds, 2015). Today, nearly half of all four-year-olds in the country participate in prekindergarten and Head Start (National Institute of Early Education Research, 2017), and more than 80% of kindergartners attend full-day programs (U.S. Department of Education, 2017), both of which represent large increases from previous decades.  

Yet much of this increasing emphasis does not take into account two unfortunate realities. First, the size of the achievement gap by family income is large and increasing in the U.S. and internationally (Belfield & Levin, 2007; Braveman & Gottleib, 2014; Piketty, 2014). In the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress, 20% of U.S. 4th graders from low-income families were proficient readers compared to 52% of students from higher-income families (National Center for Education Statistics, 2016). This 32-point gap, which has increased by a third over the past decade, indicates that, to be effective, services must be proportionate to the need (Braveman & Gottleib, 2014; Takanishi, 2016). 

A one- or two-year preschool program, even if high-quality, can reduce this gap by only about a third (Barton & Coley, 2009; Reynolds, Hayakawa, et al., 2017). Early gaps in school readiness magnify over time and contribute to disparities in achievement proficiency and school completion. To realistically address these challenges, multiyear and multicomponent approaches that integrate services are needed. 

The second unfortunate reality is that despite the overall evidence of positive benefits for good-quality programs, impacts of early childhood programs across all cultural and social contexts vary substantially in magnitude, consistency, and duration. Too much variation in program quality is a major reason, as is the fact that later education is not aligned to early learning (Camilli et al., 2010; Reynolds & Temple, 2008; Zigler, Gilliam, & Jones, 2006). Even if large and sustained effects and greater alignment do occur, these programs are rarely scaled to entire populations.  

Given the size of achievement disparities, the relatively modest levels of achievement proficiency of students worldwide, and the limited reach of current programs, longer and more comprehensive strategies are needed. They also must have the capacity to scale since only a small fraction of programs are ever scaled to the population level (O’Connell, Boat, & Warner, 2009; Spoth et al., 2013). Multilevel programs in the first decade of life can redress these trends. 

Read more here

Reducing Poverty and Inequality Through Preschool-to-Third-Grade Prevention Services

Providing better quality and more intensive public education for children from poor and at-risk backgrounds can significantly increase their chances at ending the cycle of poverty.

Research conducted on a long-term data set from some of Chicago’s most-challenged neighborhoods has found that four to six years of educational interventions in a child’s life ended up producing enormous benefits by the time the children made it into early adulthood.

The findings, conducted by psychologists Arthur Reynolds, Suh-Ruu Ou, Christina Mondi and Alison Giovanelli at the University of Minnesota, were published in the journal “American Psychologist.”

Find the Market Watch article reviewing the findings of this research here and the full publications can be found here



Sustaining the Benefits of Early Childhood Education Podcast

Data show that only half of all children in the United States are ready for school when they enter kindergarten, and that learning gains from early childhood programs are often lost as children get older. A new book co-edited by Judy Temple, professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and co-director of the Human Capital Research Collaborative, explores the features of successful early education programs and the ways to sustain their benefits long-term.

Listen to the full interview with Dr. Judy Temple here

Dosage Effects in the Child-Parent Center PreK-to-3rd Grade Program

Although substantial investments in early childhood intervention have continued, whether gains are sustained past kindergarten for routinely implemented programs is a critical research need. HCRC researchers performed a re-analysis of data from the Chicago Longitudinal Study to investigate the effects of program duration from preschool to 3rd grade on school outcomes and whether the effects differ by gender. 

Findings indicate that relative to the preschool plus kindergarten (P-K) group, participation from preschool through third grade (P-3) is significantly associated with better academic functioning at both 3rd and 8th grades, better classroom adjustment at 3rd grade, lower rates of retention and school mobility, and few years of special education. Relative to the preschool through second grade (P-2) group, the P-3 group has significantly higher academic functioning in third grade. Results suggest that the P-3 dosage is associated with larger effects on academic functioning for girls and larger effects on social-emotional functioning for boys compare to the P-K dosage. Findings suggest that receiving up to third grade (P-3) of an early childhood education program have associated with persistent effects on developmental outcomes compared to the dosages of P-K. Multi-year programs have the potential to sustain early childhood gains and promote healthy development via improving academic functioning and school experiences.

The full publication can be found here



HCRC researchers 

Does Early Food Insecurity Impede the Education Access Needed to Become Food Secure?

Food is an integral part of survival. What happens when there is not enough food for
children? How does that affect their development, specifically their learning? Dr. Matthew Kim
discusses research on food security and its effect on children and education.

Matthew Kim, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Economics, University of Saint Thomas

Does Early Food Insecurity Impede the Education Access Needed to Become Food Secure?

School-based PreK Predicts BMI at Age 35

The increasing prevalence of childhood and adult obesity has led to a high priority on the identification of innovative approaches to prevention. Given that the prevalence of adult obesity has doubled over the past 3 decades and currently affects 40% of U. S. adults, comprehensive and multi-level efforts beginning in early childhood are increasing recommended as the one of the most impactful and cost-effective.  However, few if any routinely implemented programs have demonstrated they lead to sustained reductions in childhood obesity, let alone into adulthood. In this presentation, the impact of the Child-Parent Center (CPC) preschool education program on Body Mass Index (BMI) and obesity in early midlife is investigated for the first time. CPC is a school-based, multi-component early childhood intervention designed to improve school success and long-term health and well-being. It is currently undergoing expansion as a school reform model. Because it has been found to have enduring effects on school achievement, educational attainment, and health behaviors, it was hypothesized that program participation would be associated with lower adult BMI scores and reductions in obesity prevalence.

Using data from over 1,000 participants up to age 37 from the Chicago Longitudinal Study—one of the largest and longest-running prospective investigations of the impact of early childhood experience—results indicated that CPC preschool participation was associated with significantly lower BMI scores in midlife, especially for women and participants from the highest poverty neighborhoods. Reductions in obesity (BMI scores of 30 and above) were exclusive to female CPC graduates. Evidence on mediation was limited, with educational attainment, socio-emotional adjustment in elementary school, and high school quality being the strongest predictors and contributors to mediation. Findings will inform the design, implementation, and scalability of effective early childhood programs and practices for promoting healthy development.

Find the full presentation here

Aligned Curriculum and Collaborative Leadership are Key to School Reform

Sustaining early learning gains requires a comprehensive and effective system of services from preschool through the school-age years. Findings from the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress show the urgent need to improve achievement, as only 37% of U. S. 4th graders are proficient readers.i  One year of preschool will not solve this problem. Reflecting the dual importance of high-quality preschool and effective K-3 services, Child-Parent Center (CPC) P-3 is a school reform model designed to create a strong and sustainable culture of learning through 3rd grade.