Disparities in Early Learning and Development: Lessons from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study – Birth Cohort (ECLS-B)

ReportEarly ChildhoodJun 1 2009

This brief adds to the body of knowledge by using data from a nationally-representative sample of infants born in the year 2001 to examine multiple sociodemographic characteristics that may be associated with developmental disparities at 9 and 24 months of age. We examine developmental outcomes in three domains: cognitive development, general health, and social emotional development. First, we examine possible disparities in each of these developmental domains associated with family income, comparing infants/toddlers from families at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty threshold to those whose families are above this threshold. We next assess the prevalence of developmental disparities by race/ethnicity, home language, and mother’s educational attainment. Although low socioeconomic status (SES) has been found to account for most of the variance in cognitive scores in previous research, low SES is highly correlated with other demographic characteristics, such as racial/ethnic minority status. Furthermore, previous research has shown the presence of multiple risk factors has significant effects on children’s developmental outcomes. In order to further explore the influence of low income and other sociodemographic factors, we examine the overlap in these characteristics within a nationally-representative sample, and determine the effects of cumulative risk for cognitive, health, and social-emotional outcomes.