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Cradle to KindergartenCradle to Kindergarten

A New Plan to Combat Inequality

Ajay Chaudry, Taryn Morrissey, Christina Weiland and Hirokazu Yoshikawa

Narrated by Colleen Patrick

Available from Audible

Book published by Russell Sage Foundation

Early care and education for many children in the U.S. is in crisis. The period between birth and kindergarten is a critical time for child development, and socioeconomic disparities that begin early in children’s lives contribute to starkly different long-term outcomes for adults. Yet, compared to other advanced economies, high-quality child care and preschool in the U.S. are scarce and prohibitively expensive for many middle class and most disadvantaged families. To what extent can early-life interventions provide these children with the opportunities that their affluent peers enjoy and contribute to reduced social inequality in the long term? Cradle to Kindergarten offers a comprehensive, evidence-based strategy that diagnoses the obstacles to accessible early education and charts a path to opportunity for all children.

The U.S. government invests less in children under the age of five than do most other developed nations. Most working families must seek private child care, which means that children from low-income households, who would benefit most from high-quality early education, are the least likely to attend them. Existing policies, such as pre-kindergarten in some states, are only partial solutions. To address these deficiencies, the authors propose to overhaul the early care system, beginning with a federal paid parental leave policy that provides both mothers and fathers with time and financial support after the birth of a child. They also advocate increased public benefits, including an expansion of the child care tax credit, and a new child care assurance program that subsidizes the cost of early care for low- and moderate-income families. They also propose that universal, high-quality early education in the states should start by age three, and a reform of the Head Start program that would include more intensive services for families living in areas of concentrated poverty and experiencing multiple adversities from the earliest point in these most disadvantaged children’s lives. They conclude with an implementation plan and contend that these reforms are attainable within a ten-year timeline.

Reducing educational and economic inequalities requires that all children have robust opportunities to learn, fully develop their capacities, and have a fair shot at success. Cradle to Kindergarten presents a blueprint for fulfilling this promise by expanding access to educational and financial resources at a critical stage of child development.

Ajay Chaudry is senior fellow at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University and former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Services Policy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Taryn Morrissey is assistant professor of public administration and policy at American University.

Christina Weiland is assistant professor of education at the University of Michigan.

Hirokazu Yoshikawa is the Courtney Sale Ross Professor of Globalization and Education at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and a University Professor at New York University.


Cradle to Kindergarten cogently builds on the evidence of what works to assemble an investment plan in early learning that will mean every child gets the chance to succeed and that the nation prospers. If we want an economy and society that works for everyone we must start by giving every baby a fair shot in school and life. Let us make supporting learning from birth the nation’s highest agenda item and move with determination to turn the vision laid out here a reality for America’s children.”

—Arne Duncan, former U.S. Secretary of Education

Cradle to Kindergarten highlights the critical importance of expanded investments in a full continuum of high quality early childhood development and learning opportunities for our youngest children and their families. The benefits for the children now, their futures and our nation's future are enormous. We must guarantee the best possible start for all our children and give those who need it the extra support they deserve.”

—Marian Wright Edelman, president, Children‚Äôs Defense Fund

“This powerful book should be mandatory reading for anyone who cares about our nation. The authors provide compelling evidence that by neglecting what science shows our children and families really need, we are imperiling our future. Even more importantly, they offer a plan to support all our children and their parents, ensuring that each of our children has the opportunity to thrive.”

—David T. Ellwood, Isabelle and Scott Black Professor of Political Economy, and director, Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, Harvard Kennedy School

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