High-quality child care leads to academic success for low-income kids

Chestnut Hill, Mass. (September 15, 2009) — For low income parents, finding high quality child care not only boosts the performance of their children in school, but actually combats the effects of poverty, according to a new study in the journal Child Development.

Children who spent more time in high-quality child care in the first five years of their lives had better reading and math scores in middle school, according to researchers from Boston College, the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Samford University, who studied 1,300 middle school students.

Looking deeper, researchers found that low income children who received high-quality child care achieved at similar academic levels as their more affluent peers, even after taking into account factors such as levels of parental education and employment.

“The real takeaway here is that even minimal exposure to higher quality child care protects children from the harm done by living in poverty,” co-author Eric Dearing, an associate professor of applied developmental psychology in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, said. “When it comes to early child care, quality matters more for children in poverty than for affluent children in promoting the long term academic achievement of the former up to similar levels as the latter.”

The researchers looked at reading and math achievement of more than 1,300 children in middle childhood from economic backgrounds ranging from poor to affluent. They used information from the longitudinal Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, which was carried out under the auspices of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

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