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Does Universal Preschool Hit the Target? Program Access and Preschool Impacts

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  • Cascio, Elizabeth U.

    () (Dartmouth College)

Abstract

Despite substantial interest in preschool as a means of narrowing the achievement gap, little is known about how particular program attributes might influence the achievement gains of disadvantaged preschoolers. This paper uses survey data on a recent cohort to explore the mediating influence of one key program attribute – whether disadvantage itself is a criterion for preschool admission. Taking advantage of age-eligibility rules to construct an instrument for attendance, I find that universal state-funded prekindergarten (pre-K) programs generate substantial positive effects on the reading scores of low-income 4 year olds. State pre-K programs targeted toward disadvantaged children do not. Differences in other pre- K program requirements and population demographics cannot explain the larger positive impacts of universal programs. The alternatives to universal and targeted state pre-K programs also do not significantly differ. Together, these findings suggest that universal preschools offer a relatively high-quality learning experience for low-income children not reflected in typical quality metrics.

Suggested Citation

  • Cascio, Elizabeth U., 2017. "Does Universal Preschool Hit the Target? Program Access and Preschool Impacts," IZA Discussion Papers 10596, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10596
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    1. Bassok, Daphna & Fitzpatrick, Maria & Loeb, Susanna, 2014. "Does state preschool crowd-out private provision? The impact of universal preschool on the childcare sector in Oklahoma and Georgia," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(C), pages 18-33.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    early education; preschool; targeted; universal; access; quality;

    JEL classification:

    • H75 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Government: Health, Education, and Welfare
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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