High-quality early learning can greatly reduce disparities in children, life outcomes
The Sector > Research > Understanding Children > High-quality early learning can greatly reduce disparities in children, life outcomes

High-quality early learning can greatly reduce disparities in children, life outcomes

by Freya Lucas

November 08, 2021

Researchers from the University of California, Irvine (UCI) have suggested that high-quality early childhood education can greatly reduce disparities between children from low and high income families in life outcomes


Published in Child Development the study strongly suggests that sustained high-quality early education can have long-lasting impacts. 


Researchers used data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development study of early child care and youth development as a base, the research followed 814 subjects of the original sample until the young adults were 26 years of age. 


The young adults had attended a variety of child care and preschool settings that varied widely in their quality of care and came from families from low-, middle-, and high-income backgrounds in several locations around the country. 


Remarkably, researchers said, children from low-income backgrounds who had access to 24 months or more of high-quality early childhood education in their first five years were more likely to graduate from college and had higher salaries at age 26. In fact, the outcomes for these young adults who experienced sustained high-quality care were statistically indistinguishable from their higher-income peers.


“Community-based early care and education, delivered at scale, can provide lasting impacts, and may serve as a catalyst for children’s success later in life — particularly for those from less resourced environments,” the researchers concluded. 


“Importantly, high quality was necessary for achieving these long-term outcomes. Recent findings from a study by University of Virginia Professor Bob Pianta and his colleagues make a similar point.” 


Simply having access to early education isn’t enough, they continued. To be effective, ECEC environments must be warm, safe, and supportive environments, rich with language and conversation, and offering many opportunities to play and engage in hands-on exploration. 


Sustained access is also critical in predicting long-term outcomes. Higher salary and college graduation rates were only evident for children who had two or more years of high-quality care.


To review the study in full, see here

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