Monday, May 20, 2013

US Needs Fewer Preschool Programs And More Childcare Programs

Posted by Milton Recht:

As the home environment of low income households becomes more enriched, as the number of very low income households with preschool children with mothers who did not finish high school drops to about half, 71 percent to 37 percent, from 1970 to 2000, and the number of low income mothers who have some post secondary education increases five times from 5 percent to 25 percent, there is currently less educational benefit, and possibly none, from universal preschool.

Parents reading to their young children and parental educational attainment expectations for their children, along with parent educational levels are predictive of children's educational level and success in school. With higher education levels of low income mothers, more at home reading to children will occur and higher parental expectations of education attainment will be expected from children.

The US does not need more money invested in universal preschool programs as President Obama has proposed. Instead, there is need for quality childcare for preschool children, especially for mothers who need or want to work outside the home. As a quality childcare facility probably cost less than a quality preschool program, the US could have more places available for more children in daytime childcare than in preschools. More low and middle income mothers and their children would benefit from the greater availability of quality childcare due to its lower cost than from a lower number of preschool seats due to its higher cost.

From Journal of Economic Perspectives, "Investing in Preschool Programs" by Greg J. Duncan and Katherine Magnuson:
In 1970, some 71 percent of preschool age children in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution had mothers who lacked a high school degree, while only 5 percent of the mothers had attended at least some postsecondary schooling (based on authors’ calculation of the October Current Population Survey data). By 2000, the corresponding percentage of children with mothers who did not have a high school degree had dropped by nearly half (to 37 percent), while the percentage with mothers who had completed some postsecondary schooling (based on authors’ calculation of the October Current Population Survey data). By 2000, the corresponding percentage of children with mothers who did not have a high school degree had dropped by nearly half (to 37 percent), while the percentage with mothers who had completed some postsecondary schooling increased five-fold (to just over 25 percent). Today, therefore, children from low-income households are likely to be benefiting from much higher-quality home environments than their counterparts four decades ago. Both higher-quality home environments and increases in other forms of center-based child care raise the bar for impact estimates coming from early childhood education programs. [Emphasis added.]

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