The Need

Less than half of low-income children have access to high-quality early childhood programs that could dramatically improve their opportunities for a better future. This statistic is tragic when one considers that skills developed in the first five years of life greatly influence success later in life. Expanding access and options for parents to access quality early childhood programs have proven benefits for individuals and society in reduced healthcare costs, increased school achievement and a more educated workforce.

This research details the evidence showing the need for access to high-quality early childhood programs.


Chetty, R. Duncan, G.

• Children’s skills and knowledge when they are young are strongly related to their life outcomes. In other words, children who lag behind early are likely to continue doing so throughout their schooling and beyond.
• The relation between skills and knowledge during a child’s early years and that child’s success later on is a science-backed reason to invest in early childhood education.

Source: Chetty, R., et al. (2011). How does your kindergarten classroom affect your earnings? Evidence from Project Star. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 126(4), 1593-1660.
Source: Duncan, G., et al. (2007). School readiness and later achievement. Developmental Psychology. 43(6), 1428-1446.

Duncan, G.

• Longitudinal studies show early childhood poverty is a stronger predictor than resources in middle childhood or later in life of positive life outcomes. In other words, providing interventions during the late elementary and middle school years is less impactful than intervening during the early childhood years.

Source: Duncan, G., et al. (2010). Early-childhood poverty and adult attainment, behavior, and health. Child Development. 81(1), 306-325.

Garcia, E.

• Race-based gaps in skills such as reading, math, eagerness to learn, persistence and focus shrink significantly when socioeconomic status is taken into account.
• Conclusions also support various psychological studies that found traumatic experiences negatively impact early childhood development.

Source: Garcia, Emma. (2015). Inequalities at the Starting Gate. Economic Policy Institute. Washington, DC.

Hart, B.; Risley, T.R.

• The number of words spoken, the messages conveyed and the words learned by infants differs across socioeconomic groups.
• After four years of parent-child interactions, there were significant discrepancies in children’s knowledge and skills.
• Most importantly, children from high-income families were exposed to 30 million more words than children from families on welfare.
• Follow up studies showed that these differences have long-lasting effects.

Source: Hart, Betty and Risley, Todd R. (2003). The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3. American Educator 27(1), 4-9.

Huttenlocher, J.; Haight, W.; Bryk, A.; Sletzer, M.; Lyons, T.

• Huttenlocher et al. examines the factors that drive language development in early childhood, including the correlation between maternal speech and child vocabulary. There is a substantial relationship between individual differences in vocabulary learning and retention and the amount parents speak to their children. This relationship reflects the impact parents have on their child’s language acquisition and not the child’s innate cognitive ability.

Source: Huttenlocher, Janellen, Wendy Haight, Anthony Bryk, Michael Sletzer and Thomas Lyons. “Early vocabulary growth: Relation to language input and gender.” Developmental Psychology 27(2), 236-248.

Shonkoff, J.P.

• Positive early experiences strengthen brain architecture and toxic stress can disrupt brain circuits, undermine achievement and compromise physical and mental health.
— As brain architecture emerges, it establishes either a sturdy or fragile foundation for all the capabilities and behavior that follow.
— The interaction of genes and experience shapes the circuitry of the developing brain.
— Brain plasticity and ability to change behavior decrease over time. It’s less costly to society and individuals to get it right early rather than trying to fix it later.

Source: Shonkoff, J.P. (2009). Mobilizing Science to Revitalize Early Childhood Policy. Issues in Science and Technology, 26 (1).