Does preschool benefit everyone equally?

Preschool services provide many benefits for children, but many studies lack socioeconomic data to see whether these benefits are equal for all children.

Research Summary

  • Children from low-income families who attend preschool are less likely to struggle developmentally.

What is the research about?

Early Development Instrument (EDI) results in Montreal showed that in 2006 one in three kindergartners struggled in at least one area of their development.

These results made stakeholders ask one key question: how did preschool connect to later development?

Previous research shows that attending preschool contributes to later educational success. Socioeconomically disadvantaged children are less likely to attend preschool on a regular basis. But those who do attend high-quality preschool are more ready for school.

Another EDI collection in 2012 allowed researchers to further explore how preschool attendance affects later development.

What did the researchers do?

Researchers collected data on 1,184 kindergarten children in Montreal. They linked EDI scores with information from several surveys.

Researchers looked at:

  • Type of preschool
  • Age at start of preschool
  • How long the child attended preschool
  • Average weekly attendance
  • Overall amount of time in preschool
  • Family income

What did the researchers find?

Fewer children from low-income families attended preschool (79.6%) compared to better-off families (90.5%). These children started attending later and less frequently. They also were more likely to attend lower quality preschools.

Children from low-income families who attended high-quality early childhood centre daycares were less likely to be vulnerable in two or more EDI domains than their peers who did not attend any preschool. Other preschool services did not show any protective effects, regardless of family income.

Timing mattered as well. Children who started attending preschool before the age of 12 months were less likely to be vulnerable in two or more EDI domains.

What does this research mean?

Attending preschool can be beneficial for children from low-income families, but only if the preschools are high quality. Results suggest that these children should start attending before the age of 12 months.

The results call for more high-quality early childhood centre daycares in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. These should also be more affordable to make them more accessible.