News & Views | Published:

Social Policy: Targeting programmes effectively

Nature Human Behaviour volume 1, Article number: 0019 (2017) | Download Citation


A study now shows that 20% of the population accounts for 60–80% of several adult social ills. Outcomes for this group can be accurately predicted from as early as age 3 years, using a small set of indicators of disadvantage. This finding supports policies that target children from disadvantaged families.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1.

    , , & in Economics of Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States Vol. 2 (ed. Moffitt, R.) Ch. 4, 235–297 (Univ. Chicago Press, 2016).

  2. 2.

    Ready to Launch: New York City's Implementation Plan for Free, High-Quality, Full-Day Universal Pre-Kindergarten (New York Department of Education, 2014).

  3. 3.

    et al. Nat. Hum. Behav. 1, 0005 (2016).

  4. 4.

    , & Soc. Psych. Psych. Epid. 50, 679–693 (2015).

  5. 5.

    Longitudinal Results of the Ypsilanti Perry Preschool Project (Monographs of the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation No. 1, High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, 1970).

  6. 6.

    , , , & J. Public Econ. 94, 114–128 (2010).

  7. 7.

    , , , & in The Social Life of Children in a Changing Society (ed. Borman, K. M.) Ch. 7, 145–174 (L. Erlbaum Associates, 1982).

  8. 8.

    , & Econ. J. (in the press).

  9. 9.

    , & Am. Econ. Rev. 103, 2052–2086 (2013).

Download references

Author information


  1. James J. Heckman is Director of the Center for the Economics of Human Development, 5750 S. Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA; Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago, 1126 East 59th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA; and Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation, 750 North Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60611-4403.

    • James J. Heckman
  2. Jorge Luís García is a PhD candidate in the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago, and a Senior Research Assistant at the Center for the Economics of Human Development.

    • Jorge Luís García


  1. Search for James J. Heckman in:

  2. Search for Jorge Luís García in:

Corresponding author

Correspondence to James J. Heckman.

About this article

Publication history



Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing