May 28, 2013

CONTACT: Sharon Kayne, Communications Director, NM Voices for Children, 505-244-9505 

ALBUQUERQUE—Nobel prize-winning economist James Heckman notes that New Mexico could save $38 million annually on incarceration costs and crime-related expenditures by boosting the high school graduation rate of male students by just 5 percent.

If that same 5 percent also went to college at the same rates as typical male high school graduates, their cumulative income would be $20 million higher than if they hadn’t attended college. Professor Heckman, who teaches economics at the University of Chicago, believes that graduation rates could be boosted if New Mexico invested more funding in early childhood development. His analysis of such investments shows an annual return of 7 to 10 percent.

“That’s an extraordinary return on investment and it does not factor the human side of the equation: a better quality of life for New Mexicans. The number of families not torn apart by drugs, violence, and prison; the number of children not exposed to the kinds of adverse circumstances that will keep them from reaching their potential,” said Veronica C. García, Ed.D., executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children.

While New Mexico lawmakers greatly increased funding for early childhood programs and services during the last legislative session, Dr. García says it still falls far short of the need. “Home visiting programs, for example, have been shown to reduce the incidence of child abuse, which prevents all manner of problems down the line—academic as well as emotional. But only 2 percent of low-income babies receive state-funded home visiting programs,” Dr. García said. “What does that say about our attitude toward the other 98 percent of at-risk children? You’re on your own? It is often said that early childhood programs are fully funded, but we’re not even close.”

Professor Heckmanan is an expert in the economics of human development, is Associate Editor of the Journal of Labor Economics. He is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Econometric Society, the Society of Labor Economics, and the American Statistical Association. His policy brief, “Invest in early childhood development: Reduce deficits, strengthen New Mexico’s economy,” is available online:


New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities. Our fiscal policy work is funded by grants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the McCune Charitable Foundation, the WK Kellogg Foundation, and the Working Poor Families Project.
625 Sliver Ave. SW, Suite 195, Albuquerque, NM 87102; 505-244-9505 (p);