Harvard calls for human variation to be considered in ECEC policy
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Harvard calls for early childhood policy to take ‘science of human variation’ into account

by Freya Lucas

May 06, 2024

There is an urgent need to address and evaluate within group variations and between group differences when developing policy for children, the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child has noted. 


The working paper calls for “a significant shift in the way we conceive, implement, and evaluate policies and programs—one that recognizes the significance of disparities between groups associated with demographic variables, but also expects and designs for individual variation within each of those groups.” 


It is widely accepted that investing in early childhood development helps build the foundations of a healthy, productive, and equitable society. Guided by that knowledge, a range of broad-based programs and targeted services clearly make a significant difference for millions of young children, yet a closer look at program evaluation research shows that some children benefit greatly, some benefit less, and some not at all. 


Within this variation lies opportunity. Increasing the effects for all children—especially those who currently benefit the least—may be the key that unlocks greater impacts for society.


Intentionally incorporating this flexibility into the core architecture of all early childhood policies and services would offer tremendous promise for increased program effectiveness and larger impacts at scale, authors note. 


Sections of the working paper include:


  • One Size Does Not Fit All
  • Individual Variation Is the Norm, Not the Exception
    • ACEs and Individual Variation
    • Influences on Variation in Health Outcomes: The Example of Childhood Asthma
  • Between-Group Differences Are Rooted in Social and Economic Inequities
  • Implications for a Mindset Shift in Policy and Practice


Access the paper here

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