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Socioeconomic gaps in language development and school achievement: Mechanisms of inequality and opportunity

Project description

How early childhood education can break the cycle of disadvantage

Tackling inequalities starts with early childhood education and care (ECEC), which is widely considered a key remedy to the risk of academic underachievement. The EU-funded EQOP project will study ECEC effectiveness. Drawing on data from Norway, it will first study how and why socioeconomic disadvantages undermine children’s language skills and school achievement. Secondly, it will investigate whether ECEC can improve opportunities for disadvantaged children. It will also estimate the costs of socioeconomic achievement gaps and the economic benefits of ECEC at scale. Norway is an interesting example because ECEC increased from 30 % to 80 % in recent years, and the country also faces rising child poverty.

Objective

As inequality increases in most developed countries, children from socioeconomically disadvantaged families are at exceptional risk for academic underachievement with lasting consequences for individuals, their communities, and society at large. Among policy makes, early childhood education and care (ECEC) is considered a key to remedy this risk. Yet the science on ECEC effectiveness at a national scale lags behind the excitement.

Exploiting unique Norwegian data, we first seek to identify how and why socioeconomic disadvantage undermines children’s language skills and school achievement. Second, we will investigate whether ECEC can improve opportunities for disadvantaged children to excel. Third, to clarify the policy relevance of these inquiries, we will estimate costs of socioeconomic achievement gaps and the economic benefits of ECEC at scale. We take an investigative approach that is unprecedented in scope—from population level trends down to nuanced assessments of individual children’s growth.

Throughout the 2000s, Norway’s child poverty rates increased from about 4% to 10%, while the coverage of public ECEC for toddlers increased from 30% to 80%. Across this unique window of time, we have access to rich survey data on language skills and home environment for 100,000 children, and genetically informative data, linked with administrative records on community- and family level socioeconomic risks and opportunities, and on national achievement test scores. These data allow us powerful analytic opportunities, combining state-of-the-art statistical, econometric, psychometric, and genetic epidemiological methods.

I am well positioned to lead this project, having qualified for a Professorship at the University of Oslo aged 36, and having considerable experience in (a) publishing in highly respected scientific journals, (b) working at the intersection of research and policy, (c) leading research projects, and (d) mentoring younger scholars.

Host institution

UNIVERSITETET I OSLO
Net EU contribution
€ 1 692 671,06
Address
PROBLEMVEIEN 5-7
0313 Oslo
Norway

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Region
Norge Oslo og Viken Oslo
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
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Total cost
€ 1 692 671,06

Beneficiaries (3)