Book/Report Chapter

Social inequality in cognitive outcomes in Ireland: What is the role of the home learning environment and childcare?

April 28, 2017

Hans Peter Blossfeld, Nevena Kulic, Jan Skopek, Moris Triventi (Ed.), Childcare, Early Education and Social Inequality: An International Perspective, pp. 109-132

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Both psychological and sociological accounts have suggested that the home learning environment play an important role in children’s cognitive development and may provide insights into inequalities in cognitive outcomes. Using the infant cohort of the Growing Up in Ireland Study (GUI), this chapter investigates firstly if differences in the home learning environment at age three helps to explain the social gradient in childhood cognitive outcomes, measured as expressive vocabulary, at age five; and second, can childcare outside the home compensate for a poor home learning environment? Home learning environment is measured as the number of children’s books in the home and a combined index of parental activities with the child that includes reading, crafts and games.

A rich home learning environment at age 3 is associated with higher vocabulary scores at age 5 years for all children. The children of lower educated parents tend to live in poorer home learning environments, and this partly explains their lower vocabulary scores at age 5. The chapter also provides some evidence that centre-based childcare was associated with an increase in vocabulary score for children from poor home learning environments. However, this effect is very small and only slightly reduces the gap in vocabulary scores between children from a rich and poor home learning environment.