This early childhood program increased voting by 40% twenty years later

I find a strong relationship between the non-cognitive skills of grit, self control, behavioral control, and social skills measured in childhood and political participation in adulthood. This strong relationship holds even when considering measures of cognitive ability and other potential confounders.

Simply put, those children who develop non-cognitive skills are more likely to participate in adulthood. Going one step further, I test whether exogenous improvements in non-cognitive skills during early childhood translate into participation increases in adulthood. To do so, I use a unique 20-year, multi-site field experiment—the Fast Track intervention…

I show that this early-childhood field experiment targeted|and successfully moved|students’ non-cognitive skills, while leaving their cognitive skills and other factors relevant to political participation virtually unchanged…

Exposure to this program increased turnout among participants 11-14 percentage points—a substantial amount, constituting at least a 40% increase in baseline participation rates…

It appears that Fast Track mobilized because it taught children to regulate their thoughts, behaviors, and emotions and use these abilities to integrate in society.

A new paper by John Holbein. Unfortunately I did not see data on party affiliation.

In related news, my colleagues Julian Jamison and Dean Karlan produce a worthy contender for an Ig-Nobel prize for their Halloween candy voting experiments with children.

We decorated one side of a house porch with McCain material in 2008 (Romney material in 2012) and the other side with Obama material. Children were asked to choose a side, with half receiving the same candy on either side and half receiving more candy to go to the McCain/Romney side. This yields a “candy elasticity” of children’s political support.

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