July 14, 2009
The study, based on a nationally representative sample of children born in the U.S. in 2001, also includes implications for policy and practice.
The Achievement Gap Begins Early: Study Finds Disparities in Child Outcomes Among Infants
A new Child Trends study commissioned by the Council of Chief State School Officers finds disparities between poor, at-risk children and more advantaged children as early as 9 months of age--extending prior research that primarily focuses on disparities at kindergarten entry and beyond. The study, Disparities in Early Learning and Development: Lessons from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study--Birth Cohort, identifies low income and low maternal education as the factors most strongly associated with poorer cognitive, social-emotional, and health outcomes among very young children. It also finds that the more risk factors a child has, the more profound the disparities.
- Disparities by Family Income: Compared to their peers from higher-income families, infants and toddlers from low-income families score lower on cognitive assessments, are less likely to be in excellent or very good health, and are less likely to receive positive behavior ratings at both 9 and 24 months.
- Toddlers from lower-income families are also less likely to have a secure attachment to their primary caregiver compared to toddlers from higher-income families.
- Small effects were found for all outcomes at 9 months; these effects were larger (moderate) by 24 months.
Disparities by Maternal Education: Compared to infants whose mothers have a Bachelor's degree or higher, infants and toddlers whose mothers have less than a high school degree score lower on both cognitive and behavioral measures and they are also less likely to be in excellent or very good health. Disparities are typically small at 9 months, but become more pronounced at 24 months (moderate to large).
In addition, toddlers whose mothers have a Bachelor's degree or higher are more likely to have a secure attachment to their primary caregiver compared to toddlers whose mothers have less education.