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How Much is Too Much? The Influence of Preschool Centers on Children's Social and Cognitive Development

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  • Susanna Loeb
  • Margaret Bridges
  • Bruce Fuller
  • Russ Rumberger
  • Daphna Bassok
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    Abstract

    Previous research has demonstrated that attending center care is associated with cognitive benefits for young children. However, little is known about the ideal age for children to enter such care or the "right" amount of time, both weekly and yearly, for children to attend center programs. Using national data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS-K), this paper asks whether there are optimal levels of center care duration and intensity and whether these levels vary by race or income. We consider pre-reading and math skills as measured by assessments administered at the beginning of kindergarten, as well as teacher-reported social-behavioral measures. We find that on average attending center care is associated with positive gains in pre-reading and math skills, but negative social behavior. Across economic levels, children who start center care between ages two and three see greater gains than those who start centers earlier or later. Further, starting earlier than age 2 is related to more pronounced negative social effects. Results for center intensity vary by income levels and race. For instance, poor and middle-income children see academic gains from attending center intensively (more than 30 hours a week), but wealthier children do not; and while intense center negatively impacts Black and White's social development, it does not have any negative impact for Hispanic children.

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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11812.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11812.

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    Date of creation: Dec 2005
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    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11812

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    1. Katherine A. Magnuson & Christopher J. Ruhm & Jane Waldfogel, 2004. "Does Prekindergarten Improve School Preparation and Performance?," NBER Working Papers 10452, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Eliana Garces & Duncan Thomas & Janet Currie, 2002. "Longer-Term Effects of Head Start," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 999-1012, September.
    3. Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2004. "Understanding the Black-White Test Score Gap in the First Two Years of School," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(2), pages 447-464, May.
    4. A. J. Reynolds & J. A. Temple, . "Extended early childhood intervention and school achievement: Age 13 findings from the Chicago longitudinal study," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1095-96, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
    5. Heckman, James J & Ichimura, Hidehiko & Todd, Petra, 1998. "Matching as an Econometric Evaluation Estimator," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(2), pages 261-94, April.
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    Cited by:
    1. Lawrence M. Berger & Jeanne Brooks-Gunn & Christina Paxson & Jane Waldfogel, 2007. "First-Year Maternal Employment and Child Outcomes: Differences Across Racial and Ethnic Groups," Working Papers 911, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing..
    2. Pierre Lefebvre & Philip Merrigan & Matthieu Verstraete, 2006. "Impact of Early Childhood Care and Education on Children's Preschool Cognitive Development: Canadian Results from a Large Quasi-experiment," Cahiers de recherche 0636, CIRPEE.

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