Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Poster Paper: Understanding Neighborhood Context in Child Care Quality and Children's School Readiness

Friday, November 13, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Ying-Chun Lin1, Young Sun Joo1 and Katherine Magnuson2, (1)University of Wisconsin - Madison, (2)University of Wisconsin – Madison
Some evidence has shown that family poverty and neighborhood poverty jointly affect young children’s school readiness. Holding constant family’s socioeconomic background, neighborhood poverty is associated with children’s lower reading and math skills and more behavioral problems. Neighborhood contexts might affect young children’s outcomes by not only exposing children to violence and reducing parents’ social networks, but also by lowering the quality of educational institutions they experience. The quality of formal K-12 schools has garnered significant attention in the neighborhood literature, but early learning institutions may also be important. High quality early care and education (ECE) promotes children’s school readiness, and these effects tend to be larger for disadvantaged children. As low-income children have less access to high quality care than their more affluent peers, one mechanism by which neighborhood poverty may affect children through their participation in lower quality ECE. Our study contributes to the literature by examining whether neighborhood poverty is associated with children’s early academic skills, and whether these associations are mediated by the quality of ECE they attend.  

This paper uses data from a Midwestern study of ECE providers who participate in the state’s Quality Rating and Improvement System and provide care for 3 to 5 years old children. The sample consists of 725 children and 151 child care providers. We merge geocoded addresses of child care providers with 2013 American Community Survey data to obtain providers’ neighborhood poverty rates at zip code level. Neighborhood poverty is measured as the percent of households living below the federal poverty threshold, and divided into three categories: low (<10%), moderate (10-19%), and high (≥20%) poverty neighborhoods. ECE quality is measured by state’s star rating system based on four program dimensions: staff’s education, learning environment and curriculum, business and professional practices, and child health and wellbeing. Children’s school readiness is assessed in standardized measures of early literacy and math skills (Bracken School Readiness Assessment, Woodcock Johnson Applied Problems and Letter-Word Identification).  

Our preliminary analyses suggest that continuous measures of ECE neighborhood poverty rates are negatively correlated with child care quality (r= –.08) and children’s school readiness (r= –.36 to –.19). For further analyses, multilevel modeling will be used to account for the nested data structure, and to test for direct and indirect effects of neighborhood poverty on children’s early academic skills. Children and family’s characteristics including age, gender, race, parent’s education, home language, family structure, household income, and parental involvement, and children’s behavior will be controlled in the analyses.

The results from this paper will shed light on the role of neighborhood contexts in relation to both child care quality and children’s early academic skills. The implications of the findings will be discussed with respect to place-based policies and other efforts to improve ECE quality and early learning.