Published on September 16, 2009 by Kara Kennedy  

As children head back to school and attention turns to strategies for boosting reading and math achievement for low-income youth, a new study says the quality of early child care may play a role.

Beck A. Taylor, dean of Samford University’s Brock School of Business, conducted research for the study along with colleagues from Boston College and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The findings from their study are published in the September/October 2009 issue of Child Development.

The researchers looked at reading and math achievement of more than 1,300 children in middle childhood from economic backgrounds ranging from poor to affluent. They used information from the longitudinal Study of Early Care and Youth Development, which was carried out under the auspices of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

The study concludes that children who spent more time in high-quality (that is, above-average) child care in the first five years of their lives had better reading and math scores. This was especially true for low-income children; in fact, their scores were similar to those of affluent children, even after taking into account a variety of family factors, including parents’ education and intelligence.

“Much insight can be gleaned by understanding various contexts of child development, including quality child care, and the potential moderating impact such settings may have for particularly disadvantaged children,” according to Taylor. “In large part, our results can be explained by the fact that low-income children who attended higher-quality child care developed reading and math skills in early childhood that likely prepared them for later achievement in middle childhood,” according to Eric Dearing, associate professor of applied developmental psychology at Boston College and co-author on the study. “These results give added credence to the central role that higher-quality child care should play in future discussions on anti-poverty policy,” Dearing added.

Samford’s Taylor has done extensive work in the area of early child development and the various effects poverty has on school readiness and subsequent opportunities for workforce development. Taylor’s research concludes that childhood poverty puts children at a disadvantage when it comes to developing the skills needed to lead productive lives.

“One thing this study does confirm is that socio-economic conditions do have an impact on whether or not school-aged children can learn the necessary skills to help them enter the workforce later in life, but we can make a difference and policy makers should take notice” Taylor said.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.