Benefits of preschool vary by family income

Nov 16, 2010

State-funded preschool programs have historically enrolled low-income children, aiming to help them start school on a footing closer to nonpoor youngsters. Today, more and more states are expanding access to preschool programs, and some are making them universally available. How will this affect states' efforts to narrow achievement gaps? A new study concludes that while the benefits of preschool are greatest for children living in poverty, nonpoor children, particularly Black youngsters, also experience positive gains from preschool participation.

The study, conducted at the University of Virginia, appears in the November/December 2010 issue of the journal Child Development.

Between 2002 and 2009, the percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled in state grew from 14 to 25 percent. While most state programs have income-based eligibility guidelines, in the last 10 years, more states have begun offering universal access to , and more states are currently considering doing so.

"Universally available preschool programs are likely to narrow achievement gaps between children who are poor and those who are not poor, and also between racial groups, only if some subgroups—such as low-income or minority populations—experience larger benefits from participation than others," according to Daphna Bassok, assistant professor of education policy at the University of Virginia, who conducted the study.

Bassok's research is based on information on about 7,400 children who were part of the birth cohort of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, a nationally representative data set that tracks children from birth to kindergarten. She analyzed the link between participation in preschool—described as any classroom-based program targeted to 4-year-olds, including nursery schools, preschool centers, and prekindergarten programs—and how children did on an assessment of literacy when they were 4.

On average, all poor children, regardless of their race, seemed to benefit substantially from taking part in preschool the year before kindergarten. For White children, the benefits of preschool were inversely related to their socioeconomic status, with benefits largely limited to poor children. Among Black youngsters, however, both poor and nonpoor children showed considerable benefits.

The findings suggest that while preschool participation may benefit low-income children across racial and ethnic groups, expanding toward universal access and enrolling whose families are above may still lead to a narrowing of racial achievement gaps.

The study was funded, in part, by the American Education Research Association through funds from the National Science Foundation and the Institute of Education Sciences within the U.S. Department of Education.

Explore further: Nation is facing a refugee crisis, not an immigration crisis, says writer

More information: Child Development, Vol. 81, Issue 6

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Home, preschool and school coordination boosts achievement

May 14, 2010

Children whose minds are stimulated in several early childhood settings—home, preschool, and school—have higher achievement in elementary school. What matters is not whether children's learning is supported at home, or ...

Children who do not get enough sleep sustain more injuries

Feb 21, 2008

Lack of adequate sleep can lead to increased injuries among preschool children, new research shows. This study published in Public Health Nursing shows that the average number of injuries during the preschool years is two ...

Recommended for you

Putting children first, when media sets its own rules

34 minutes ago

In an age when a significant number of parents won't let their child walk down the street to post a letter because of "stranger danger", it's ironic that many pay little attention while media organisations ...

Self-made billionaires more likely to give than inheritors

2 hours ago

A study by economists at the University of Southampton suggests that billionaires who have built their own fortunes are more likely to pledge to donate a large portion of their wealth to charities, than those who are heirs ...

Recessions result in lower birth rates in the long run

17 hours ago

While it is largely understood that birth rates plummet when unemployment rates soar, the long-term effects have never been clear. Now, new research from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public ...

Human trafficking, an invisible problem

21 hours ago

Human trafficking is a problem about which little is known in Spain, due to both the lack of reliable figures as well as the poor coordination among international police forces and the social permissiveness with regard to ...

User comments : 0