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Center for Policy Research

Policy Brief

Children in Economically Disadvantaged Households Have Lower Early Literacy Skills than their Higher-Income Peers

Michah W. Rothbart, Colleen Heflin, and Gabriella Alphonso

C.P.R. Policy Brief No. 1

March 2023

Michah Rothbart

Michah W. Rothbart

Colleen Heflin

Colleen Heflin

Literacy is critical for numerous developmental outcomes and wellbeing among children. Low literacy skills in childhood can also negatively affect individuals in adulthood. Using data from nearly 300,000 kindergarten students in Virginia (2014-2017), this study finds that children in households that participate in more than one social assistance program (such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs, and Free or Reduced-Price Lunch) have lower literacy skills when they enter kindergarten than children whose households participate in fewer or no social programs. 

CPR Policy Briefs present concise summaries of findings from recent research conducted by CPR affiliates in the areas of crime and the law, economic wellbeing and poverty, education, energy and the environment, families, health, public finance, social welfare, urban and regional economics, and other policy-relevant domains.

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