Poverty & Early Childhood Education

Children from economically disadvantaged communities are rarely prepared to succeed
in kindergarten and future endeavors; quality early childhood education can be the catalyst that equips them for success.

Education research consistently shows that skills, habits and attitudes that lead to academic success and productive later lives are formed most effectively and economically in the earliest years of a child’s academic experience. Quality early childhood education lays the foundation for literacy, numeracy, critical thinking and socialization skills that become reliably evident and increasingly testable in the early elementary grades.  Reading abilities in third grade, for example, are highly correlated with a student’s likelihood of successfully completing high school, in turn making the student far more likely to enter college, vocational school or immediate employment.[1]

Failure to lay the proper educational foundation at the ages of zero to five years poses enormous costs for children, schools and communities.  Public school districts in particular must attempt to remediate gaps opened in the earliest years at great economic cost and loss of teaching continuity.  When unsuccessful, the community loses the student’s potential as a fully productive adult, often paying again through social programs.  Put more positively, Nobel Prize Laureate economist James Heckman[2] has shown that each dollar invested in quality early childhood education for at-risk children delivers economic gains of 7 to 10 percent per year through increased school achievement, healthy behavior and adult productivity. His work, The Heckman Equation, proves that prevention through quality early childhood development is more cost-effective than remediation.

Economically disadvantaged children are at greatest risk of receiving an inadequate foundation in early childhood, manifested in immediate difficulties maintaining academic momentum as early as the first and second grades. Preschools and child care centers in impoverished neighborhoods often lack safe facilities and playgrounds, trained teachers, informed curricula and appropriate classroom materials, as well as the funding and access to external resources that would enable them to make meaningful improvements.  Few providers reach out to these facilities with the expertise and flexibility to help them on-site as does Educational First Steps (EFS).  To learn more about how EFS partners with child care centers for maximum effect, click here.

For more resources regarding poverty and early childhood education, please click here.

To learn more, contact Educational First Steps online or call 214-824-7940 in Dallas or 817-535-0044 in Tarrant County.


[1] Double Jeopardy:  How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation by Donald J. Hernandez, Professor, Department of Sociology, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York and Senior Advisor, Foundation for Child Development. The Annie E. Casey Foundation.
[2] James J. Heckman is the Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at The University of Chicago, a Nobel Memorial Prize winner in Economics, and an expert in the economics of human development.
Site design by Advice Interactive Group.
Educational First Steps • 2815 Gaston Avenue - Dallas, TX 75226 • (214) 824-7940
Educational First Steps • 2100 Circle Drive, Suite 300 Fort Worth, TX 76119 • (817) 535-0044