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Brief’s Findings About Early Child Care and Education Are Only Partially Supported by Research

BOULDER, CO (April 20, 2021) The Manhattan Institute recently published a brief, The Drawbacks of Universal Pre-K: A Review of the Evidence, which reviews evidence relating to both means-tested and universal early childhood care and education programs.

W. Steven Barnett, Professor and Senior Co-Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, reviewed the report. He concludes that while increased scrutiny of universal pre-K and child care proposals is useful, the complexity of the issues surrounding them does not lend itself to the sorts of simple policy prescriptions found in the new brief.

Although the scope of the brief is broad, Professor Barnett explains, it is insufficiently deep. In particular, while the brief raises warranted warnings about potential unintended negative consequences, omissions of research and unjustified assumptions make it a misleading and inadequate policy guide.

The brief relies on a highly selective narrative review of a small number of studies, he continues, omitting important studies and giving undue weight to specific interpretations of a few studies that skew its findings. Its failure to cite meta-analyses (including some of universal programs) is especially noteworthy.

Professor Barnett concludes that a more meticulous review of the literature relying on fewer preconceptions might have resulted in more nuanced conclusions regarding universal pre-K and child care. 

Find the review, by W. Steven Barnett, at:

Find The Drawbacks of Universal Pre-K: A Review of the Evidence, written by Max Eden and published by the Manhattan Institute, at:

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