In Reversal, Kindergarten Readiness Gaps Narrow
In Reversal, Kindergarten Readiness Gaps Narrow
Overview: Recent Trends in Income, Racial, and Ethnic School Readiness Gaps at Kindergarten Entry

Published in:
August 26, 2016

Sean F. Reardon, Stanford University
Ximena A. Portilla, MDRC


Academic achievement gaps between high- and low-income students born in the 1990s were much larger than among cohorts born two decades earlier. During the same period, racial/ethnic achievement gaps declined. To determine whether these trends have continued in more recent cohorts, we examine trends in several dimensions of school readiness, including academic achievement, self-control, externalizing behavior, and a measure of students’ “approaches to learning,” for cohorts born from the early 1990s to the mid-2000s. We use data from nationally-representative samples of kindergarteners (ages 5-6) in 1998 (n=20,220), 2006 (n=6,600), and 2010 (n=16,980) to estimate trends in racial/ethnic and income school readiness gaps. We find that readiness gaps narrowed modestly from 1998-2010, particularly between high- and low-income students and between white and Hispanic students.

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Overview: Socioeconomic Gaps in Early Childhood Experiences, 1998 to 2010

Published in:
August 26, 2016

Daphna Bassok, University of Virginia
Jenna E. Finch, Stanford University
RaeHyuck Lee, Columbia University
Sean F. Reardon, Stanford University
Jane Waldfogel, Columbia University


Using two nationally-representative datasets, this study compares early life experiences of kindergarteners in 1998 and 2010. We find that young children in the later period are exposed to more books and reading in the home, they have more access to educational games on computers, and they engage with their parents more, both inside and outside the home. Although these increases occurred among both low and high-income children, in many cases the biggest changes were seen among the lowestincome children. Our results indicate a narrowing but still large early childhood parental investment gaps. In addition, socioeconomic gaps in preschool participation grew over this period, despite substantial investments in public preschool. Implications for early socioeconomic achievement gaps are discussed.

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News Coverage

U.S. kindergarten gains: Who gets the credit?
The Mercury News, September 9, 2016

Hillary Clinton Answers 10 Questions on Early Education
The Atlantic, September 6, 2016

The 'achievement gap' appears to be narrowing
Boston Globe, September 5, 2016

The shrinking gap between poor and wealthy kindergarteners
Washington Examiner, September 1, 2016

Goodnight, pre-K gap
Yahoo News, August 31, 2016

Kindergarten Readiness Gaps Narrow Between Affluent and Poor Students
Education Week, August 29, 2016

Racial Disparities Persist In Oklahoma's Gifted Student Programs
KGOU, August 29, 2016

Low-income kindergartners are closing the achievement gap, reversing a decades-old trend
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 29, 2016

Achievement Gap Between Young Poor and Wealthy Children is Closing
Education World, August 29, 2016

Ready for kindergarten? Gap between rich and poor narrows, study finds, August 29, 2016

Low-income kindergartners are closing achievement gaps
Education Dive, August 29, 2016

Surprise! Amid Rising Inequality, One School Gap Is Narrowing
NPR, August 28, 2016

Study: Academic Readiness Gaps Closing Slowly
Diverse Issues in Higher Education, August 28, 2016

Achievement gap narrows in kindergarten
Trib Live, August 27, 2016

Ready for kindergarten? Gap between rich and poor narrows, Stanford study finds
Stanford News, August 26, 2016

The Good News About Educational Inequality
The New York Times, August 26, 2016

Despite Growing Income Inequality, Learning Gaps Between Rich and Poor Kids Are Actually Closing
The Huffington Post, August 26, 2016

Low-income kindergartners are closing the achievement gap, reversing a decades-old trend
The Washington Post, August, 26, 2016

Study: Poor Kindergartners Are Catching Up
U.S. News &World Report, August 26, 2016

Are Poor Students More Prepared for Kindergarten?
Education Week, August 26, 2016

Surprising reversal: School readiness gap narrows between rich and poor kids
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 26, 2016

Author Interview

Watch Sean F. Reardon discuss the study's findings

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