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The Quality of Toddler Child Care and Cognitive Skills at 24 Months: Propensity Score Analysis Results from the ECLS-B.


Over half of the toddlers in the U.S. experience routine nonparental care, but much less is known about early care than about preschool care. This study analyzed 2-year-old child care and child outcome data from the nationally representative ECLS-B sample of children born in 2001. At two-years of age, 51% of children experienced exclusive parental care, 18% relative care, 15% family child care, and 16% center care. More children in nonparental care were in medium quality care (61%) than in high quality (26%) or low quality (13%) care. Low-income children were more likely than non-low income children to be cared for by their parents and, when in care, were more often in lower quality care. The impact of toddler care quality on cognitive skills was estimated using propensity score adjustments to account for potential selection confounds due to family and child characteristics. Children's cognitive scores were higher in high or medium quality care than in low quality care, but no evidence emerged suggesting that poverty moderated the quality effects. Nevertheless, this suggests that increasing the proportion of low-income children in high quality care could reduce the achievement gap because low-income children are very unlikely to experience high quality care.

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