Neighborhood economic disadvantage and Head Start children’s academic, socioemotional, and behavioral functioning: Exploring quality as a mediating mechanism.

By McCoy, D. C., Connors, M. C., Morris, P., Yoshikawa, H., & Friedman-Krauss, A. (2015)

Past research has shown robust relationships between neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage and children’s school achievement and social-emotional outcomes, yet the mechanisms for explaining these relationships are poorly understood. The present study uses data from 1904 Head Start participants enrolled in the Head Start Impact Study to examine the role that classroom structural and relational quality play in explaining the association between neighborhood poverty and children’s developmental gains over the preschool year.

Results suggest that neighborhood poverty is directly related to lower levels of classroom quality, and lower gains in early literacy and math scores. Indirect relationships were also found between neighborhood poverty and children’s social-emotional outcomes (i.e., approaches to learning and behavior problems) via differences in the physical resources and negative student–teacher relationships within classrooms. These findings highlight the need for policy initiatives to consider community characteristics as potential predictors of disparities in classroom quality and children’s cognitive and social-emotional development in Head Start.