Keywords: Early Childhood; Education; Italy; Regional Development.
Early childhood represents a critical period for the formation of cognitive and non-cognitive skills. These skills influence academic achievements of students and lead to diverse social and economic outcomes. It is widely recognized how investment in early childhood, and especially in helping disadvantaged children and families, has a high social rate of return. This paper reviews the literature on the theme, focusing on Italy. Data show how Italy is characterized by profound North-South disparities regarding childcare services, poverty incidence and students achievements. It is proposed that investments in childhood services and education, improving human capital formation, would have a positive effect on regional development.