Senior Fellow, New York University
Inequality begins early. Most of the gap in children’s development and achievement levels are present well before children first set foot in kindergarten. In Cradle to Kindergarten, Ajay Chaudry and his colleagues draw on a wealth of scientific, economic and education research to lay out the case that a comprehensive reimagining of America’s early childhood policies for improving lifelong educational and economic outcomes and contributing to reduce the widening disparities between children from economically advantaged families and those from middle-class and more disadvantaged families. The U.S. has a fragmented and inadequate set of services for early care and education. The period between birth and kindergarten is a critical time for child development, but most children do not receive high-quality early learning opportunities. Primarily those families with financial means to provide them receive their benefits, and the socioeconomic disparities that begin early in children’s lives contribute to starkly different long-term outcomes for adults. Compared to almost any other advanced economy, the U.S. government invests less in children under the age of five, and high-quality childcare and preschool in the U.S. are scarce and prohibitively expensive for many middle class and most disadvantaged families. Rather than offering disparate, piecemeal policy solutions, the strategy envisioned would consist of paid parental leave, a guarantee of childcare assistance for children with working parents, universal early education starting at age 3, and a reimagined Head Start that focuses health and education interventions for children under age 3 in areas of concentrated poverty.