Panel Paper: Racial Disparities in Universal Pre-K in New York City

Thursday, November 7, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Court 7 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Scott Latham1, Jennifer Jennings1, Sean Corcoran2 and Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj3, (1)Princeton University, (2)Vanderbilt University, (3)Seton Hall University

New York City recently undertook one of the most ambitious expansions of universal preschool in the country, going from serving about 19,000 kids in free, full-day pre-k in 2013-14 to almost 70,000 kids just two years later. Although recent reports suggest that the average quality of public pre-k in New York City is quite high, there is little information about how quality is distributed throughout the city, and whether access to high quality providers is related to residential demographics. This study examines these questions using publicly-available data from New York City’s Open Data portal, combined with data from the 2010 U.S. Census. We find that despite high average quality across providers, there are large disparities in the quality of providers attended by the average black and the average white student. We also find suggestive evidence that this is partially driven by lower availability of high-quality providers in census tracts that have a high proportion of black residents. We find smaller, but still meaningful disparities in quality between providers attended by the average white and average Hispanic student. In general, these results suggest that variation in preschool quality by student demographics may be working against the stated goal of promoting equity throughout the city.