When Democrats aren’t trying to keep children out of school and (not) learning online, or requiring them to wear masks when they’re (not) learning in crappy union-run public schools, they’re trying to warehouse them in government-run universal child care programs.
Universal child care is one of the centerpieces of the Democrats’ BBB Bill (better known as “Biden’s Big Blunder”). Yet the people who scream “follow the science” never seem to take in what several social science studies of early preschool have found. Let’s start with the American Economic Journal:
Past research documents the persistence of positive impacts of early life interventions on noncognitive skills. We test the symmetry of this finding by studying the persistence of a sizeable negative shock to noncognitive outcomes arising with the introduction of universal child care in Quebec. We find that the negative effects on noncognitive outcomes persisted to school ages, and also that cohorts with increased child care access had worse health, lower life satisfaction, and higher crime rates later in life. Our results reinforce previous evidence of the central role of the early childhood environment for long-run success.
(Here’s a good news summary of the study.)
And just out this week from Developmental Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association:
As state-funded pre-kindergarten (pre-K) programs expand, it is critical to investigate their short- and long-term effects. This article presents the results through sixth grade of a longitudinal randomized control study of the effects of a scaled-up, state-supported pre-K program. The analytic sample includes 2,990 children from low-income families who applied to oversubscribed pre-K program sites across the state and were randomly assigned to offers of admission or a wait list control. Data through sixth grade from state education records showed that the children randomly assigned to attend pre-K had lower state achievement test scores in third through sixth grades than control children, with the strongest negative effects in sixth grade. A negative effect was also found for disciplinary infractions, attendance, and receipt of special education services, with null effects on retention. The implications of these findings for pre-K policies and practices are discussed.
And from the conclusion:
Our results are robust and contrary to the claims made by many advocates for the universally positive effects of pre-K participation. Children from poor families who attended a state pre-K program did not, for the most part, become proficient readers in third grade. On the contrary, their performance on all measures of achievement through sixth grade was significantly below that of comparable children who did not attend.
The findings are not new. There have been repeated studies showing that the Great Society-era program Head Start has little or no effect after a few years, which this latest study mentions. But who in Congress, even among mean Republicans, is going to vote to scale back something called “Head Start”?
The authors of this study work hard to try to put the best face on early childhood programs and come up with explanations for their negative findings, most of which surprised them:
Apart from the lack of positive effects on achievement, an unexpected finding important to explore further is the negative behavioral outcomes. . . Our findings of higher rates of school disciplinary infractions for pre-K participants provide further support for this as an issue that warrants serious attention. . . Searching for possible explanations of this common outcome, however, has not been immediately fruitful.
Maybe, just maybe, young children are better off staying at home with their mothers. But this is heresy to leftists today.
Of course, what Democrats care about most is shoveling more money to their client groups in the “caring professions,” which get recycled in the form of campaign contributions.