School Readiness in the Context of Early Childhood Education and Care Among Young Children of Asian and Hispanic Immigrant Mothers
Building upon strong theoretical foundations, numerous studies have found beneficial effects of early childhood education and care on school readiness among young children, especially those in low-income families. However, what do we know about children of immigrants? Surprisingly, little is known about it. Given that many young children of immigrants are living in disadvantaged environments and that early childhood education and care programs especially benefit disadvantaged children, we may expect children of immigrants to benefit more from those programs. Thus, this study examines the association between early childhood education and care and school readiness among children of immigrants, focusing on Head Start (HS) and state-funded pre-kindergarten (pre-K) programs—two typical public preschool programs available for immigrant families. Since children of immigrants are too heterogeneous to be compared to those of native-born population, this study examines the association, separately for Asian and Hispanic groups.
I used a sample of about 1,800 children, from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort, whose mothers were foreign-born Asians (n≈1,000) or Hispanics (n≈800) and who had valid information on child care arrangements and at least on one of the outcomes. Child care groups at age 4 were HS, pre-K, other center care (except HS and pre-K), other non-parental care (care from relatives or non-relatives), and exclusive parental care. Five achievement outcomes (reading/expressive language/math/vocabulary/communication), four socio-emotional outcomes (approach-to-learning/pro-social behavior/friendship/emotional knowledge), three behavior outcomes (internalizing/externalizing/temperament problems), and BMI scores were measured at age 4 (z-scores, M=0 & SD=1). Missing information in covariates was addressed using multiple imputation. OLS regressions adjusting for sampling weights and including covariates were estimated to examine the research question, separately for Asians and Hispanics.
I found, in the Hispanic group, compared to children in parental care, those in HS showed improved early reading (0.18SDs, p<.05) and math (0.25SDs, p<.05); those in pre-K showed improved communication (0.35SDs, p<.05) and approach to learning (0.30SDs, p<.05) and reduced temperament problems (-0.28SDs, p<.05); those in other center care showed improved early reading (0.27SDs, p<.05) and math (0.36SDs, p<.01) and reduced internalizing (-0.45SDs, p<.001) and temperament (-0.27SDs, p<.05) problems; and those in other non-parental care showed reduced expressive language (-0.33SDs, p<.05) but also reduced internalizing problems (-0.27SDs, p<.05). On the other hand, in the Asian group, compared to children in parental care, those in HS showed improved math (0.43SDs, p<.05); those in pre-K showed improved early reading (0.53SDs, p<.001), math (0.43SDs, p<.001), approach to learning (0.26SDs, p<.05), and friendship (0.28SDs, p<.05); those in other center care showed improved early reading (0.30SDs, p<.01) and math (0.33SDs, p<.001); and those in other non-parental care showed reduced early reading (-0.44SDs, p<.01), expressive language (-0.38SDs, p<.01), and math (-0.36SDs, p<.01) and increased externalizing problems (0.35SDs, p<.01) and BMI scores (0.35SDs, p<.05).
Findings suggest programs focused on school readiness will need to pay particular attention to children of immigrants, tailored to ethnic and cultural differences. In addition, such programs will need to target children who would receive other non-parental or parental care if not attending a public preschool program.