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Publication Date



Upjohn Institute working paper ; 16-261




In this paper, benefits and costs are estimated for a universal pre-K program, provided by Tulsa Public Schools. Benefits are derived from estimated effects of Tulsa pre-K on retention by grade 9. Retention effects are projected to dollar benefits from future earnings increases and crime reductions. Based on these estimates, Tulsa pre-K has benefits exceeding costs by about 2-to-1. This benefit cost ratio is far less than the benefit-cost ratios (ranging from 8-to-1 to 16-to-1) for more targeted and intensive pre-K programs from the 1970s and 80s, such as Perry Preschool and the Chicago Child-Parent Center (CPC) program. Comparing benefit-cost results from different studies suggests that our more modest estimates are due to two factors: 1) smaller percentage effects of pre-K on future earnings and crime in Tulsa than in Perry and CPC, and 2) smaller baseline crime rates in Tulsa than in the Perry and CPC comparison groups.

Issue Date

August 2016, Revised April 2017


Revised paper April 20, 2017


W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research and Georgetown University

Subject Areas

EDUCATION; Early childhood; Preschool and early education


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Bartik, Timothy, Jonathan A. Belford, William T. Gormley Jr., and Sara Anderson. 2017. "A Benefit-Cost Analysis of the Tulsa Universal Pre-K Program." Upjohn Institute Working Paper 16-261. Kalamazoo, MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. https://doi.org/10.17848/wp16-261