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These first results from Chicago’s experiment in what are called “social impact bonds” showed that more than half the children from the first group of 374 preschoolers were deemed kindergarten-ready, triggering the big early dividend for Goldman Sachs and other investors. Social impact bonds are a growing trend in public finance that are being used to pay for projects that target a range of societal problems—in this case, the lack of high-quality preschool for lower-income children.

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