Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

Clemson researcher’s work called out in pitch for American Families Plan


A Clemson University researcher’s work was thrust into the limelight recently when the American Families Plan was announced by the Biden Administration.

In pitching the $1.8 trillion package of spending and fiscal reform, the White House cited research by Jorge Luis García, assistant professor in the John E. Walker Department of Economics to help sell the idea that the administration’s plan for early childhood investment is cost effective and has life-changing implications.

García, whose research among other things, monetizes the value of investing in early education, was the first author in research cited by White House in pitching the spending and investment package that aims to expand access to education, reduce the cost of childcare and support women in the work force. 

Jorge Luis Garcia

“Actually, it was unexpected and quite exciting to know that policymakers find value in your work and that it may be used to help improve people’s lives in a cost-effective way,” said García, a native of Mexico City who joined the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business faculty in 2018.

While earning his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, García was joined by three others in producing Quantifying the Life-Cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program,’ the research cited in the White House’s effort to sell the American Families Plan.

Published in the Journal of Political Economy in 2020, the study concludes that investing in  high-quality birth-to-five programs for disadvantaged children can deliver a 13 percent per year return on investment, or in other words it results in $7 of benefits for every $1 spent. The research shows those benefits are realized through better outcomes in education, health, social behaviors and employment.

‘Quantifying the Life-Cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program’ analyzed the effects of two identical, randomized controlled preschool experiments in North Carolina in the 1970s and 1980s. Children were randomly assigned into the treatment group that received high-quality center-based care, or the control group that received lower quality center-based care or family care. The study showed significant human development gains for the treatment group.

“Our research showed that high-quality programs result in significant gains and pay for themselves many times over for disadvantaged children,” García said. “The cost of early childhood inaction is a tragic loss of human and economic potential that we cannot afford.”

In general, García’s research explores fertility, human capital and female labor force participation and how they shape economic inequality. His research on early childhood intervention is continuing and the most recent iterations explore the lifecycle and intergenerational gains in education, health, social behaviors and employment using data collected when the study participants entered midlife.

The junior professor’s work has not only been recognized by academic journals and policy makers, García was the recipient of the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business’ Emerging Scholar Research Excellence Award for the 2020-21 academic year.

“I’m honored to have received the award and knowing that my work is being recognized by my peers as contributing to a greater cause,” he said. “Knowing that the research was cited outside the academic community by policymakers is gratifying, especially if it in some way contributes to creating a better quality of life for those who need it most.”

Joining García in his research were James J. Heckman, University of Chicago and Duncan Ermini Leaf and María José Prados, both of the University of Southern California.

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