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Child Development Research
Volume 2011, Article ID 343016, 12 pages
Research Article

Early Years Policy

1Columbia University School of Social Work, 1255 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027, USA
2Centre for Market and Public Organization, University of Bristol, 2 Priory Road, Bristol BS8 1TX, UK

Received 17 August 2010; Accepted 18 February 2011

Academic Editor: Mikael Heimann

Copyright © 2011 Jane Waldfogel and Elizabeth Washbrook. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


We analyze the role that early years policy might play in narrowing educational attainment gaps. We begin by examining gaps in school readiness between low-, middle-, and high-income children, drawing on data from new large and nationally representative birth cohort studies in the USA and UK. We find that sizable income-related gaps in school readiness are present in both countries before children enter school and then decompose these gaps to identify the factors that account for the poorer scores of low-income children. We then consider what role early years policy could play in tackling these gaps, drawing on the best available evidence to identify promising programs.