Which Activities Matter? The Effects of Preschool Curricula on Future Educational Outcomes
Dr. Sarah Estelle
As the literature in economics examining child participation in preschool has grown substantially in the past two decades, little has been done to determine what aspects of an early childhood education program make it effective. While most research in this field studies the broad effects of preschool participation on later-life educational and labor market outcomes, this paper investigates the relationship between engaging in specific math- or reading-related activities during preschool and children’s future educational outcomes. Understanding the effects of particular activities is crucial for informing decision making by parents who send their children to preschool and policymakers trying to incentivize optimal early childhood investment. The Head Start Impact Study provides nationally-representative child-level data on the frequency with which children engage in certain math- and reading-related activities, such as reading stories aloud and playing math games, as well as teacher evaluations of children’s math and reading aptitudes in second grade. I identify the effects of including specific activities in an early childhood education curriculum on future educational success by controlling for a variety of childcare provider characteristics and the socioeconomic background of children’s families.
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