Social and emotional learning in the early years aids in future employment and economic benefits for society.

From the early years
to the earning years.

Beyond the positive impacts to brain development, success in school and society as a whole, social and emotional development in the early years has been directly tied to important economic impacts as well – from greater income for SEL-equipped individuals (and higher tax revenue as a result), to various economic benefits for us all.

Since an emphasis on SEL can prevent costly health, policing, employment and other deficits from emerging in the first place, all evidence points to the importance of starting as early as possible. The research is clear: SEL benefits children from all walks of life equally, the returns are significant, and the cost of doing nothing is far too great.

“Quality early learning and development programs can foster valuable skills, strengthen our workforce, grow our economy and reduce social spending.”

– Professor James J. Heckman, Nobel Laureate in Economics

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Success in the Workforce

To keep up with the demands of our changing economy, today’s business leaders are looking for a new set of skills that include problem solving, critical thinking, better communication, collaboration, and self-management. Ever since SEL in young children was first linked to a higher percentage of high school and post-secondary graduates, a number of studies have gone on to show how these skills predict higher incomes and career success later in life.

The Economic Benefits of SEL

Every day, studies reveal new connections between social and emotional learning in young children and a number of long-term benefits for our economy. In fact, one study from Columbia University estimated that for every dollar spent on SEL, another $11 worth of economic benefits is created – from the money earned by a workforce with higher incomes, to the money saved through reduced unemployment insurance and healthcare costs, fewer public safety issues and many other factors. Now more than ever, the importance of investing in the early years is attracting widespread attention.

The Cost of Doing Nothing

On the opposite end of the scale, the potential costs associated with poor SEL are too great to ignore. When teachers are forced to spend more time managing student behaviour problems in the classroom, more resources are needed to support them. And in cases where poor SEL leads to physical or mental health issues, substance use, issues with the law or a greater reliance on social assistance programs, the costs are even greater – not just for our economy, but for our society as a whole. Added up, the cost of doing nothing is something we already can’t afford.

SEL Benefits Everyone

Since development gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged children happen well before kindergarten, an emphasis on social and emotional learning is far more effective in the early years than later on, and also far less costly. Regardless of gender, ethnicity, income or ability, research has proven that SEL benefits all children equally. In fact, studies have shown that a strong foundation of social-emotional skills in young children might just be society’s “great equalizer” – providing young children from all backgrounds with the tools they need to lead happy, healthy, productive lives.