Early Parental Investment and the Emergence of School Readiness Gaps

Project Title

Early Parental Investment and the Emergence of School Readiness Gaps: Changing Patterns over the Past Two Decades

Project Summary

Socio-economic gaps in cognitive skills emerge years before children enter elementary school and those gaps persist throughout school and into adulthood. Early childhood interventions are increasingly touted for their potential to narrow achievement gaps and serve as societal equalizers. However, as researchers and the media have placed greater emphasis on the importance of the early childhood years, higher-income families may have expanded investments in their young children at rates that far outpace more modest increases among middle and low-income families. The purpose of this study is to leverage a number of large, national datasets, several of which include waves that were only recently released, to provide new evidence on this issue. In particular, the study addresses three questions. First, how has parental investment in the enrichment and development of their young children changed between the early nineties and today? Second, is there evidence of a growing “early childhood parental investment gap” between low and high-income families? And finally, do changing patterns of parental investment over this period correspond to changing trends in children’s “school readiness” and to a widening of socio-economic school readiness gaps?

Funding Source

National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship


Principal Investigator:




Daphna Bassok
[email protected]

Associated Faculty

  • Daphna Bassok, Associate Professor
    Associate Director, EdPolicyWorks