SPRC Seminar Series 2014: Social inequality in the early school years in Australia, Canada, US and UK

bruce bradbury event

Abstract:  We examine SES gaps (as indicated by parental education and income) in cognitive outcomes for children using data from four large child cohort studies (the LSAC study in Australia). At around age 5, we find substantial gaps in indicators of cognitive outcomes between children with different parental education and income levels – both at the top and bottom of the distribution. These gaps are the largest in the US and smallest in Australia and Canada. These cross-national patterns mirror cross-national patterns of income inequality and are also associated with cross-national difference in patterns of young parenthood, mother health and childcare. The US patterns of childcare and employment in the years prior to formal schooling might explain the large top-middle gap in achievement found there. These patterns remain relatively stable up to age 11. However, this does not mean that the role of SES (and correlated influences) is confined to the pre-school years. Children with the same initial language abilities have diverging outcomes in later years in line with their parents’ SES, even after controlling for measurement error.

Bio:  Bruce Bradbury is an Associate Professor at SPRC. His research has focussed on living standards and economic inequality and the role of social policy in alleviating disadvantage. This research reports results from an ARC and Russell Sage Foundation funded project on cross-national patterns in socio-economic inequalities.

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