Jack P. Shonkoff

Jack P. Shonkoff is Professor of Child Health and Development and Founding Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. He served as Chair of the Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development for the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, which produced a landmark report entitled, From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. Under the auspices of the National Academies, he served as Chair of the Board on Children, Youth, and Families, and as a member of the Panel on Child Care Policy, the Committee on Assessment of Family Violence Interventions, and the Roundtable on Head Start Research. He was a member of the MacArthur Research Network on Early Experience and Brain Development. He has received multiple honors, including election to the Institute of Medicine, appointment as a National Associate of the National Academies for his “extraordinary” contributions to the National Academy of Sciences, and the C. Anderson Aldrich Award in Child Development from the American Academy of Pediatrics. He has authored more than 130 publications and served on the editorial boards of a number of scholarly journals, including Child Development. Prior to his current position, he was the Samuel F. and Rose B. Gingold Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and Dean of The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. He earned an M.D. from New York University School of Medicine.

Papers Published in World Economics:

Economic, Neurobiological and Behavioral Perspectives on Building America’s Future Workforce

A growing proportion of the US workforce will have been raised in disadvantaged environments that are associated with relatively high proportions of individuals with diminished cognitive and social skills. A cross-disciplinary examination of research in economics, developmental psychology, and neurobiology reveals a striking convergence on a set of common principles that account for the potent effects of early environment on the capacity for human skill development. Central to these principles are the findings that early experiences have a uniquely powerful influence on the development of cognitive and social skills, as well as on brain architecture and neurochemistry; that both skill development and brain maturation are hierarchical processes in which higher level functions depend on, and build on, lower level functions; and that the capacity for change in the foundations of human skill development and neural circuitry is highest earlier in life and decreases over time. These findings lead to the conclusion that the most efficient strategy for strengthening the future workforce, both economically and neurobiologically, and for improving its quality of life is to invest in the environments of disadvantaged children during the early childhood years.

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