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The socio-economic gradient in early child outcomes: evidence from the Millennium Cohort Study

Author

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  • Lorraine Dearden

    () (Institute for Fiscal Studies and Department of Social Science, University College London)

  • Luke Sibieta

    () (Institute for Fiscal Studies and Institute for Fiscal Studies)

  • Kathy Sylva

    () (Institute for Fiscal Studies and University of Oxford)

Abstract

This paper shows that there are large differences in cognitive and socio-emotional development between children from rich and poor backgrounds at the age of 3, and that this gap widens by the age of 5. Children from poor backgrounds also face much less advantageous "early childhood caring environments" than children from better off families. For example we identify differences in poor children's and their mothers' health and well-being (e.g. birth-weight, breast-feeding, and maternal depression); family interactions (e.g. mother child closeness); the home learning environment (e.g. reading regularly to the child); parenting styles and rules (e.g. regular bed-times and meal-times), and experiences of childcare by ages 3 and 5. Differences in the home learning environment, particularly at the age of 3 have an important role to play in explaining why children from poorer backgrounds experience lower levels of cognitive development than children from better off families. However, a much larger proportion of the gap remains unexplained, or appears directly related to other aspects of family background (such as mothers' age, and family size) that are not mediated through the early childhood caring environment. When it comes to socio-emotional development, a greater proportion of the socio-economic gap does appear to be related to differences in the early childhood caring environment.

Suggested Citation

  • Lorraine Dearden & Luke Sibieta & Kathy Sylva, 2011. "The socio-economic gradient in early child outcomes: evidence from the Millennium Cohort Study," IFS Working Papers W11/03, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:ifs:ifsewp:11/03
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    File URL: http://www.ifs.org.uk/wps/wp1103.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Mark E. Mcgovern, 2013. "Still Unequal at Birth: Birth Weight,Socio-economic Status and Outcomes at Age 9," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 44(1), pages 53-84.
    2. Lay-Yee, Roy & Milne, Barry & Davis, Peter & Pearson, Janet & McLay, Jessica, 2015. "Determinants and disparities: A simulation approach to the case of child health care," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, pages 202-211.
    3. Francesca Foliano & Francis Green & Marcello Sartarelli, 2017. "Can Talented Pupils with Low Socio-economic Status Shine? Evidence from a Boarding School," Working Papers. Serie AD 2017-05, Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas, S.A. (Ivie).
    4. Pearce, Anna & Sawyer, Alyssa C.P. & Chittleborough, Catherine R. & Mittinty, Murthy N. & Law, Catherine & Lynch, John W., 2016. "Do early life cognitive ability and self-regulation skills explain socio-economic inequalities in academic achievement? An effect decomposition analysis in UK and Australian cohorts," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, pages 108-118.
    5. Samantha Parsons & Lucinda Platt, 2014. "Disabled children's cognitive development in the early years," DoQSS Working Papers 14-15, Department of Quantitative Social Science - UCL Institute of Education, University College London.

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