Center care helps poor kids

Low-income children who attend high-quality child care centers significantly improve their pre-reading skills compared to similar children in home care.

The research is based on a multiyear study of the children of single mothers who entered the workforce after the welfare reforms of 1996. It was published Feb. 10 in the journal Child Development.

“The differences in cognitive development were pretty dramatic,” said Susanna Loeb, an assistant professor in the School of Education and the report’s lead author.

The results, collected from interviews with 451 families in California and Florida, showed that the cognitive growth and school-readiness skills of preschoolers who attended child care centers accelerated up to six months ahead of children who remained in home-based care. This positive trend increased an additional two months among children sent to high-quality centers with a stable, college-educated staff.

Contrary to previous study, which included middle-class children, Loeb’s work found no increase in aggression or behavior problems among children in center care. It appears that middle-class kids get what they need at home, while low-income children benefit from the stimulation provided in a well-run child-care center. My guess is they watch a lot less TV than children in home care.

About Joanne


  1. They watch less TV, and they get talked to more. And get play more with age-appropriate toys and art supplies.

  2. It really is that simple. The less time spent watching TV (ie. doing nothing), implies more time spent doing otehr stuff; common tasks, like talking, playing with random objects, just *doing* something, anything.

  3. Putting our TV in the closet saved my marriage, made me a better parent, and made my children better people. Actually, all the things we did instead of watch TV made all those changes.

    I have long wondered why some parents demand government action to promote less-offensive programming. I take smug glee in asking them in a semi-sarcastic way, “How did you get the government to put a television in your children’s rooms?” Sometimes I wonder if these same parents would buy their children a pet bear and then wonder why the feds didn’t put a muzzle on it before junior got his face chewed off.

    As for daycare, the television is often the daycare of last resort for many parents. Young children need many things to develop, but soap operas aren’t part of that list.

  4. PJ/Maryland says:

    I’m not sure I understand the distinction here between “home-based care” and “child centers”. Are we talking about moms who stayed home to care for their kids (probably not), or people who run a daycare out of their home, or what?

    Really, if this report found that kids who went to child centers were no better prepared for school than the kids who had informal “home-based care”, it would be surprising.

    It would be more interesting if we could see that these kids still had an edge in third grade, or even later in life. But judging by the Head Start studies, the kids who aren’t as well-prepared will catch up with their peers in a few years at school. If that’s the case, then increased government funding for child care centers is not the best use of the resources.

  5. Greg Williams says:

    Unless I’m mistaken, this sounds similar to the original Head Start/High Point method used in Ypsilanti, MI. That program, or at least it’s name, was used as the basis for the federal Head Start program. The federal Head Start had small similarities to the original, intensive intervention program.