Race and Intelligence: Separating Science from Myth

By Jefferson M. Fish | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
15

Compensatory Preschool
Education, Cognitive
Development, and “Race”
W. Steven Barnett
Gregory Camilli

The extent to which preschool education can improve the long-term cognitive abilities of children in poverty is a question of substantial importance for both social policy and scholarship. Much of the debate over public spending on preschool education programs such as Head Start and other investments in the education of poor children revolves around the issue of whether such investments can produce meaningful improvements in the cognitive abilities of children from low-income families. Those who conclude that preschool education has not and cannot produce such effects tend to conclude that large additional public investments in the education (preschool and otherwise) of poor children are unwarranted (Herrnstein & Murray, 1994; Jensen, 1969). Similarly, estimates over time of the effects of preschool education on the cognitive abilities of children in poverty have implications for our understanding of cognitive abilities and their malleability.

Minority children are much more likely to spend the first years of their lives in poverty. Over 40% of African-American and Latino children under the age of 6 are poor and the vast majority live in families with inadequate incomes (under 185% of the poverty level). By contrast only 13% of non-Latino white children under the age of 6

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