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Early Years: Resources

Investing in the early years is one of the smartest investments a country can make to break the cycle of poverty, address inequality, and boost productivity later in life. Today, millions of young children are not reaching their full potential because of inadequate nutrition, lack of early stimulation and learning, and exposure to stress. Investments in the physical, mental, and emotional development of children -- from before birth until they enter primary school – are critical for the future productivity of individuals and for the economic competitiveness of nations. 


Q & A

Why should countries invest in the early years?

Smart investments in the physical, cognitive, linguistic, social, and emotional development of young children -- from before birth until they transition to primary school – are critical to put them on the path to greater prosperity, and to help their countries be more productive and compete more successfully in a rapidly changing global economy.

What is the impact of early childhood development on adult wages?

Evidence suggests a potential return rate of seven to 16 percent annually from high-quality preschool programs targeting vulnerable groups.

A 20-year study of children in Jamaica by Nobel Laureate James Heckman, Paul Gertler and others showed that disadvantaged young children who received high-quality early stimulation interventions as infants and toddlers earned up to 25 percent higher wages as adults – equivalent to adults who grew up in wealthier households.

How many children don’t have access to learning?

Only half of all three to six-year-olds have access to pre-primary education. In Sub-Saharan Africa, only 20 percent of children can access these critical learning opportunities. Across developing countries, fewer than half of children under five have access to three or more books at home, limiting their development opportunities.

Is ‘stunting’ (i.e., children short for their age) a problem?

Yes. One quarter of children under age five worldwide – that’s 156 million children per 2016 estimates– evidence chronic malnutrition.

What does stunting have to do with a country’s progress?

Today, millions of young children are not reaching their full potential because of inadequate nutrition, lack of early stimulation and learning, and exposure to stress. New World Bank Group analysis suggests that the per capita GDP loss a country incurs for not having eliminated stunting when today’s workers were children is seven percent, on average, while Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia suffer larger losses of about nine percent and 10 percent respectively.

What is the role of mothers and mothers-to-be in this?

Mothers and mothers-to-be should receive nutritious food. Their newborn babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months and receive appropriate feeding and micronutrients thereafter.

How can parents or caretakers make the most out of a child’s early years?

Families should receive quality healthcare and immunizations, and practice good household hygiene. Parents also need support so that they can positively engage with their children and undertake learning activities with them as appropriate for their age. They also need to be able to protect their children from the kinds of stress which can harm their development, such as that due to violence or neglect, displacement, disasters or loss of income. 



Brief: Investing in the Early Years

Education: Early Childhood Development

Stepping Up Early Childhood Development: A Guide for Policymakers and Practitioners about How to Invest in Young Children

Investing in Early Childhood Development: Review of the World Bank’s Recent Experience

Early Childhood Development in the Middle East and North Africa

The Promise of Early Childhood Development in Latin America and the Caribbean

Africa’s Future, Africa’s Challenge: Early Childhood Care and Development in Sub- Saharan Africa

Infographic: Investing in Young Children is an Early Win

Infographic- Investing in Early Childhood in the Arab World

Investing in nutrition: the foundation for development – an investment framework to reach the global nutrition targets

World Bank Group, UNICEF urge greater investment in early childhood development


Lancet: Advancing Early Childhood Development: from Science to Scale

WHO: Investing in early childhood development essential to helping more children and communities thrive, new Lancet Series finds

Lancet: The early years: silent emergency or unique opportunity


  • Media Inquiries

    Ramatoulaye George-Alleyne, Focal Point
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