An excerpt from the recent NY Times story by David Leonhardt:
How much do your kindergarten teacher and classmates affect the rest of your life?

Economists have generally thought that the answer was not much. Great teachers and early childhood programs can have a big short-term effect. But the impact tends to fade...

Early this year, Mr. Chetty and five other researchers... examined the life paths of almost 12,000 children who had been part of a well-known education experiment in Tennessee in the 1980s. The children are now about 30, well started on their adult lives...

Mr. Chetty and his colleagues ó one of whom, Emmanuel Saez, recently won the prize for the top research economist under the age of 40 ó estimate that a standout kindergarten teacher is worth about $320,000 a year. Thatís the present value of the additional money that a full class of students can expect to earn over their careers. This estimate doesnít take into account social gains, like better health and less crime.
Read the full story here.