The importance of demographic, social, and political context for estimating policy impacts: Comment on “Implementing New York’s Universal Prekindergarten Program.

By Barnett, W. S. (2007).

Morrissey, Leikes, and Cochran (2007) raise concerns about potential negative effects of state pre-kindergarten (pre-K) on the early care and education system. To put their study in context, I reviewed national demographic and enrollment trends. I found little evidence of negative effects from state pre-K policy. One reason may be that population growth and child care policies mitigated potential negative impacts of pre-K expansion. However, national averages could conceal important local variations or even nationwide variations when there are offsetting gains and losses. Children under age 5, their families, and their teachers all likely gained from increases in public pre-K. Infant/toddler care in private programs expanded as quickly as public pre-K. Morrissey and colleagues’ small data set from New York has serious limitations, but some of the most salient findings are consistent with the national picture. The study offers lessons and suggests topics for future research on the influence of pre-K policy on the early care and education system.