January 28, 2022 – Volume 21, Issue 4


New Research Highlights the Benefits of Cash Support for Infants in Low-Income Families

Cash support for low-income families benefits infant brain activity, research released this week demonstrated. The study, the first published from the randomized control trial Baby’s First Years, found that infants whose mothers received one year of unconditional monthly cash support were more likely to show brain activity patterns associated with thinking and learning than infants whose mothers did not receive the same level of cash support.

“An intervention designed to reduce poverty appeared to cause changes in children’s brain functioning in ways that have been linked to subsequent higher cognitive skills,” the authors wrote.

The study involved 1,000 pairs of mothers and infants enrolled in the Baby’s First Years study in four U.S. metropolitan areas. Forty percent of the mothers were randomly selected to receive $333 monthly cash payments, while the rest received $20 per month.

The study was written by Sonya V. Troller-Renfree and Kimberly G. Noble of Columbia University; Molly A. Costanzo, Katherine Magnuson and Sarah Halpern-Meekin of University of Wisconsin-Madison; Greg J. Duncan of University of California, Irvine; Lisa A. Gennetian of Duke University; Hirokazu Yoshikawa of New York University; and Nathan A. Fox of University of Maryland, College Park. Read the study here.

Yale Child Masking Study Confirms Reductions in COVID-19-Related Child Care Closures

A study released this week by researchers at Yale University found that child masking in child care centers early in the pandemic was associated with a reduction in COVID-19 closures within the next year. The continued use of child masking during the one-year study was also associated with a reduction in program closures.

According to the authors, “this large survey study of childcare professionals suggests that masking children 2 years and older can be an important component of risk mitigation strategies for younger children in congregate settings when vaccination is not widely available.”

Data were collected in May and June 2020 and again in May and June 2021; during which time 43 percent of the 6,654 programs surveyed experienced a closure for a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case in either a child or a staff member. While other safety practices such as six-foot distancing were also studied, child-masking was the practice most associated with a reduction in closures.

Read the full study here.


Webinar: Universal Child Care: Rhetoric, Realities & Roadmaps

NIEER’s Ellen Frede will serve as a keynote speaker at a Community Advocates for Young Learners (CAYL) Institute webinar on universal child care on Thursday, Feb. 3. Frede and two fellow experts in early learning will discuss existing rhetoric, share imagined futures, and outline roadmaps that could lead to universal child care. The other panelists are:

  • Maurice Sykes, senior associate of the Early Learning Leadership Institute
  • Sia Barbara Ferguson Kamara, chief strategy officer of the DC Early Learning Collaborative

The 4 p.m. EST event is the 12th in the CAYL Catalyst Webinar Series. Reserve your spot here. If you can’t make the session, register for the webinar and a recording of the session will be emailed to you.


Research Project Coordinator I

NIEER is seeking a Research Project Coordinator I to work closely with our faculty and staff in research and evaluation. The position coordinates major aspects of preschool education research and evaluation projects. Key duties include managing fieldwork across two to three research projects, communicating effectively with research and project partners, planning and carrying out data collection trainings, collaborating in writing reports and proposals, and collaborating in the development and management of eIRB protocols, survey instruments and other research protocols in conjunction with principal investigators. Required qualifications include:

  • Bachelor’s degree, preferably in early childhood education or in policy or a social science (psychology, anthropology, sociology, human development, education).
  • A minimum of two years experience in early childhood research; a masters degree in a related field may be substituted.

If interested, please apply here. Reach out to mnores@nieer.org with questions. 


Differences between Pre-K and Kindergarten Classroom Experiences: Do They Predict Children’s Social-Emotional Skills And Self-Regulation Across the Transition to Kindergarten?

Children transitioning from pre-K to kindergarten may struggle because of differences in academic and social environments, researchers at the University of Virginia found.

“Transitioning from having a closer teacher-child relationship to a less-close relationship was associated with lower ratings of social competence and learning behaviors and higher ratings of disruptive behavior,” wrote Virginia E.Vitiello, Tutrang Nguyen, Erik Ruzek, Robert C. Pianta, and Jessica Vick Whittaker. The pattern of results was similar for changes in teacher-child interactions. The study involved 1,358 children. Read it here.

Examining Three Hypotheses for Pre-Kindergarten Fade-Out

Fade-out on pre-K benefits may result from pre-K programs failing to focus on “trifecta skills,” those that are foundational to subsequent development and not a major focus of instruction in subsequent grades, a new study found.

Researchers examined three hypotheses for explaining pre-K fade-out, and found no evidence supporting the other two: differential sustaining environments or redundant instruction hypotheses. The study involved 701 children in rural North Carolina, including 455 who attended the state pre-K program regarded as high-quality. The kindergarten classes they attended provided a level of quality equal to or higher than the public preschool, the authors noted.

“By the end of K, the Pre-K group showed smaller gains in reading and math and had higher language, math, and EF skills, but not higher reading skills, than did a group of children without preschool center experience,” the researchers wrote.

The study was written by: Margaret R. Burchinal of The University of Virginia; Tiffany Foster of The Ohio State University; Kylie Garber, Lora Cohen-Vogel and Ellen Peisner-Feinberg of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and Mary Bratsch-Hines of the University of Florida. Read the abstract here.

Effects of a Statewide Pre-Kindergarten Program on Children’s Achievement and Behavior through Sixth Grade

A longitudinal study that followed preschool-aged children through sixth grade in Tennessee found that those randomly assigned to over-subscribed pre-K program sites fared worse academically in later primary grades than the participants who were wait-listed. Negative effects also were found for disciplinary infractions, attendance, and special education placements.

The study replicates and expands on findings of negative effects that worsen over time in nonexperimental studies of Tennessee’s program more than a decade ago. The study was written by Kelley Durkin, Mark W. Lipsey, Dale C. Farran, and Sarah E. Wiesen. Read the abstract here.

The Contribution of Inhibitory Control to Early Literacy Skills in 4- to 5-year-old Children

Interference suppression, defined as the ability to overcome interference due to external distracting information or different response options in performing a task, was significantly related to early literacy skill tasks in 4- and 5-year-olds, a study found.

“Including direct assessments of inhibitory control and, in particular, interference suppression during early childhood may be useful to identify children who could benefit from early intervention to enhance their self-regulation abilities, which in turn are effective in promoting academic skills,” concluded Laura Traverso, Paola Viterbori, Elena Gandolfi, Mirella Zanobini, and Maria Carmen Usai of the University of Genoa. Read the abstract here.

Numeracy Skills Mediate the Relation between Executive Function and Mathematics Achievement in Early Childhood

A study found evidence that executive function (EF) skills predicted preschoolers’ and kindergarteners’ numeracy skills, but that key numeracy skills can fully mediate the EF-math association in kindergarteners.

“The study provides evidence on the nuanced relations between EF, numeracy, and mathematics achievement, and suggests attention to each numeracy skill in order to support early mathematical development,” wrote authors by Yun-Chen Chan of the University of Minnesota, and Nicole R. Scalise of the University of California, Irvine. Read the study here.