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Starting School at Four: The Effect of Universal Pre-Kindergarten on Children's Academic Achievement

Maria D Fitzpatrick1

1SIEPR, Stanford University,

Citation Information: The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy. Volume 8, Issue 1, ISSN (Online) 1935-1682, DOI: 10.2202/1935-1682.1897, November 2008

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Universal Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K) programs differ from widely known and extensively evaluated programs like Head Start and Perry Preschool because access is open to all children of the appropriate age. To estimate the intent-to-treat effects of these programs on the long term educational achievement of children, I use a differences-in-differences framework and individual-level data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. For disadvantaged children residing in small towns and rural areas, Universal Pre-K availability increases both reading and mathematics test scores at fourth grade as well as the probability of students being on-grade for their age. Increases in some measures of achievement also were seen among other groups, though the patterns were less uniform across outcome measures. The results correspond with other work showing children living in less densely populated areas are those most likely to enroll in preschool because of the program's availability.

Keywords: human capital; state and federal aid; early childhood education

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