A new Canadian study suggest that daycare may help low income children do better in school when they reach age 12.

Previous research has linked attendance at high quality daycare centers with academic performance, but the current study is focused upon eliminating income based achievement gaps through age 12.

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“Children from disadvantaged families who remain at home have double risks – they evolve in a home environment that is less stimulating than that of non-disadvantaged children and they are not exposed to the learning experience that most children receive by going to child care,” said senior author Sylvana Cote, of the University of Montreal in Canada.

Children from low income families who spent more time in center based child care were found by researchers to score 37 percent better on reading and writing tests at age 12 than their peers who had spent less time in daycare centers.

The researchers studied over 1,000 families whose babies were born in Quebec in 1997 and 1998.  When the children were 12, they were sorted into two groups – one for the 25 percent from the lowest income families, and another for all the other children.

Among the lower income children, those who attended daycare for more than 35 hours a week showed better academic gains in all disciplines at age 12. For all children, the researchers found that the earlier children started attending daycare, the better their school performance.  Those who began attending child care centers in infancy had better scores at age 12 than children who had never attended daycare.

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