The Early Achievement and Development Gap: ASPE Research Brief


The large gap in achievement and development between children growing up in poor and low-income families and their peers in more advantaged situations continues to be a concern to parents, the public, and policymakers. This brief describes research on the achievement and development gap – its origins, size, and what we know about how public policy can narrow the gap.

Answers the questions:

  • How early in life do we see evidence of achievement and developmental gaps?
  • What is the magnitude of achievement and developmental gaps by family income and education at school entry, and does it widen during the school years?
  • How big are the early gaps in achievement and development by race, ethnicity, or home language?
  • How do multiple risk factors contribute to achievement and developmental gaps?
  • How have achievement and developmental gaps changed historically?
  • What are the long-term consequences in achievement and development for children who experience poverty early in life?
  • What do we know about the mechanisms that contribute to these gaps and diverging pathways in early childhood?
  • What does the evidence suggest for early care and education policies and programs intended to support school readiness for all children?

Source: Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation

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