Poster Paper: Neighborhood Advantage and Children's Outcomes: The Mediating Role of Classroom Quality in Preschool

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Exhibit Hall C - Exhibit Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Wendy S Wei1, Andrea K Busby2 and Emily Hanno1, (1)Harvard University, (2)Northwestern University

Understanding how neighborhood advantage links to child development can illuminate potential policy levers for improving the outcomes of children growing up in less advantaged contexts. Neighborhood advantage, commonly defined by characteristics like income-level, employment, and levels of educational attainment, has been found to be positively predictive of children’s development and well-being (Leventhal & Brooks-Gunn, 2000). Yet, there is little understanding of the mechanisms through which these attributes matter nor whether there exist other salient dimensions of neighborhood advantage, particularly in early childhood.

The present study takes a multidisciplinary approach to a potential area of policy intervention by combining research on neighborhoods, early education, and child development. Specifically, we (1) examine the role of classroom quality dimensions (e.g., instructional support) in early childhood education (ECE) settings as a potential mechanism through which neighborhood advantage relates to child outcomes and (2) utilize a broader set of neighborhood characteristics (e.g., access to child care and healthcare, proximity to employment opportunities) to measure neighborhood advantage. ECE settings may be particularly salient for children’s outcomes given that these programs are embedded within neighborhoods and children spend a sizable proportion of their days in some type of ECE program. Moreover, some evidence suggests that children in more advantaged communities have greater access to higher quality programs, which promotes children’s developmental outcomes (McCoy et al., 2015).

Our data come from the National Center for Research on Early Childhood Education - Professional Development Study (NCRECE-PDS; Pianta and Burchinal, 2007-11), a randomized study of two forms of professional development (PD) designed to improve preschool teachers’ interactions with children. Specifically, we draw on measures of classroom quality using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS™; Pianta, La Paro, & Hamre, 2008) and child outcomes (i.e. language development, early literacy, and self-regulation) to address our research questions. Neighborhood indicators were compiled from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS; 2009) and the Child Opportunity Index (COI; Acevedo-Garcia et al., 2014), a measure of relative opportunity across neighborhoods within metropolitan areas. These sources of data are linked to the schools’ 190 census tracts in 9 cities.

First, we used confirmatory factor analyses to construct a more robust measure of neighborhood advantage. Specifically, we explore whether novel measures of neighborhood advantage (i.e., resource features) capture the same aspect of advantage as traditional measures (i.e., economic features). Next, we used structural equation modeling to examine the mediating role of classroom quality between neighborhood advantage and child outcomes. In this model, the neighborhood advantage constructs were included as predictors, the three classroom quality domains (i.e., emotional support, instructional support, classroom organization) as mediators, and children’s spring language development, early literacy, and inhibitory control skills as outcomes in a single model.

Preliminary findings suggest that economic and resource advantage are distinct factors of neighborhood advantage. Additionally, instructional support, but not the other classroom quality domains, was found to mediate the relation between neighborhood advantage and children’s vocabulary skills. We will discuss the policy implications of these findings.