Inequality During the Early Years: Child Outcomes and Readiness to Learn in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, and United States

64 Pages Posted: 28 Nov 2011

See all articles by Bruce Bradbury

Bruce Bradbury

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC)

Miles Corak

Statistics Canada; University of Ottawa; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Jane Waldfogel

Columbia University - School of Social Work

Elizabeth Washbrook

University of Bristol

Abstract

This study of the emergence of inequality during the early years is based upon a comparative analysis of children at the age of about five years in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. We study a series of child outcomes related to readiness to learn, focusing on vocabulary development and externalizing behavior. Our major findings are three in number. First, significant inequalities in child capacities emerge even in these early years in all four countries but the disparities are notably greater in the United States and the United Kingdom than in Australia, and particularly in Canada. Second, large differences in cognitive outcomes exist in all countries between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and the mainstream and these are of similar magnitudes across countries. Differences across countries in the overall disparity between cognitive outcomes of the least and most advantaged, therefore, largely reflect variation in the degree to which children at the top of the SES distribution out-perform those in the middle. Third, disparities in social and behavioral development are markedly smaller than in cognitive outcomes and differ from cognitive outcomes in their association with SES across countries. While the smallest SES gaps are found in Australia and Canada for both types of outcome, differences in cognitive outcomes are greatest in the US, while differences in behavioral outcomes are greatest in the UK.

Keywords: children, education, socio-economic inequalities

JEL Classification: I24, J13, J24

Suggested Citation

Bradbury, Bruce and Corak, Miles and Waldfogel, Jane and Washbrook, Elizabeth, Inequality During the Early Years: Child Outcomes and Readiness to Learn in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, and United States. IZA Discussion Paper No. 6120. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1965137

Bruce Bradbury (Contact Author)

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC) ( email )

Sydney, NSW 2052
Australia
+61 2 9385 3853 (Ext. 3853) (Phone)
+61 2 9385 1049 (Ext. 1049) (Fax)

Miles Corak

Statistics Canada ( email )

Family and Labour Studies
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0T6
Canada
613-951-9047 (Phone)
613-951-5403 (Fax)

University of Ottawa

2292 Edwin Crescent
Ottawa, Ontario K2C 1H7
Canada

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Jane Waldfogel

Columbia University - School of Social Work ( email )

622 W. 113th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

Elizabeth Washbrook

University of Bristol

University of Bristol,
Senate House, Tyndall Avenue
Bristol, BS8 ITH
United Kingdom

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