Does Early Childhood Education and Care Improve the Academic Skills of Children from Low-Income Families?

Katherine A. Magnuson, Columbia University
Jane Waldfogel, Columbia University

Government-funded early childhood education and care (ECEC) programs support low-income families’ transitions from welfare to work, and may also promote young children’s school readiness. Experimental studies have demonstrated that high-quality ECEC programs improve low-income children’s academic skills, but research has not shown that children benefit from more typical ECEC programs. With correlational evidence, it is difficult to determine whether ECEC experiences improve children’s academic skills or whether the association is spurious, resulting from the omission of family or child characteristics that drive parents to place children in ECEC and also enhance children’s academic skills. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Kindergarten Cohort Study, a nationally representative panel study of children who entered kindergarten in 1998, this paper takes advantage of variation in state spending on ECEC to estimate Instrumental Variable (IV) models of the effect of young children’s ECEC experiences on their academic achievement in the early school years.

Presented in Session 168: Child Care and Early Childhood Education