Monday, August 19, 2013

Early Childhood and Ability Gaps and Dissolution of the Nuclear Family

Here's an interesting paper from Heckman, "Schools, Skills, Synapses"

He writes about the ability gap that emerges between children almost a year after birth:

"The evidence on the importance of family factors in explaining ability gaps is a source of concern because a greater proportion of American children is being born into disadvantaged families. A divide is opening up in American society. Those born into disadvantaged environments are receiving relatively less stimulation and resources to promote child development than those born into more advantaged families. Figure 13(a) shows the dramatic rise in the proportion of children living in single parent families. The greatest contributor to this growth is the percent living in families with never married mothers. (See the top category.) Such families are much less likely to invest in their children (Moon, 2008). Figure 13(b) shows that the percentage of all children less than age 5 with a never married mother is over 25% for children born into families with dropout mothers. Figure 13(c) shows that this phenomenon is especially pronounced for African American families."

 Why do you think these individuals invest less in their children?

Is it because of financial constraints?  Time constraints?  Do you think they don't care?

Whatever the reason, one thing I've never thought about when it came to early childhood and ability gaps was that these gaps are partially caused by the dissolution of the nuclear family.  Parents getting divorced, leaving children to be raised by one parent or the other.  Parents both working full time without paying for nanny services to invest in their child, leaving their child without cognitive stimulation and warmth in the household from one parent.

It's just something I never really thought about.  Have you?

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