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The economic situation of a family in Israel during the first thousand days of their child’s life — from the beginning of pregnancy to the age of two — has a profound effect on the child’s life outcomes. A new study conducted by the Taub Center examines the effect of family income from the year prior to birth until Grade 5 and found that family income during the first thousand days of life — a particularly critical period of development — has a major impact on achievement in primary school.
The research was produced as part of the Taub Center Initiative on Early Childhood Development and Inequality, which is supported by the Bernard van Leer Foundation, the Beracha Foundation, and Yad Hanadiv.
The new study by the Taub Center, which was carried out by Dana Shay and Prof. Yossi Shavit who are part of the Initiative on Early Childhood Development and Inequality, examines the effect of annual family income — from pregnancy until the age of 11 — on scores on the Meitzav exams in Grade 5 in mathematics, science, English (as a second language), and language arts (mother tongue) .
Relative poverty experienced during the first thousand days of life has a negative impact on the achievements of students on the Meitzav exams in Grade 5; relative wealth during this period has a positive impact
Relative poverty during the first thousand days of a child’s life, from the beginning of pregnancy until the age of two, has a negative impact on later academic achievements. The study found that belonging to the lower quintile of the income distribution during this period leads to lower achievement in all of the subjects on the Meitzav exams given in Grade 5 – mathematics, English (as a second language), science, and language arts (Hebrew, for Jews only) – and the relationship is statistically significant. This result is obtained after controlling for family income at later ages, parents’ level of education, family size, gender, sector, and birth weight. Correspondingly, belonging to the upper quintile of the income distribution during the first thousand days of life has a positive and statistically significant impact on achievement. Thus, for example, it was found that belonging to the lowest quintile of the income distribution during the first thousand days of life leads to about 4% of a standard deviation decline in future academic achievement in mathematics while belonging to the highest quintile during this period leads to an improvement of about 11% of a standard deviation. Household income at later ages does not in general have such an effect, apart from the years just prior to the Meitzav exams (ages 10–11).
The findings of the study are particularly important given the high rates of poverty during early childhood in Israel and the large economic disparities between the socioeconomic groups
The study validates two well-known claims in the research literature: The first is that poverty experienced at an early stage in life has negative and statistically significant effects on achievements later in life. The second states that when disparities between the upper class and the rest of the population are particularly large, as they are in Israel, the members of the upper income groups will also attain higher academic achievements in the future. This deserves attention, particularly in Israel where economic inequality and relative poverty among children are high compared to other developed countries.
The disparities in Israel are large relative to the OECD countries
In comparison to other OECD countries, there are large income disparities between population groups and primarily between the highest income earners and those at the bottom of the income distribution. “This means that in Israel the strongest socioeconomic group is differentiated from the rest of the population with respect to the academic achievements of their children. This group is better able to nurture their children as a result of the resources available to them, which can be used to obtain better nutrition for mothers and their babies, better medical care and diagnosis, higher quality early childhood education and care, etc. This may help explain the wide gaps in academic achievement among the socioeconomic groups in Israel,” according to researchers Dana Shay and Yossi Shavit.
The study supports the claim that families’ income during the first thousand days of life have a major effect on future academic achievement.
Prof. Avi Weiss, President of the Taub Center added: “This research demonstrates the great importance of the early childhood years, showing that the socio-economic situation of the child and his family during these informative years may be among the most substantial determinants of his future success.”
The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel is an independent, non-partisan socioeconomic research institute. The Center provides decision makers and the public with research and findings on some of the most critical issues facing Israel in the areas of education, health, welfare, labor markets and economic policy in order to impact the decision-making process in Israel and to advance the well-being of all Israelis.
For details, or to arrange an interview, please contact Chen Mashiach, Spokesperson: 054-7602151
or Anat Sella-Koren, Director of Marketing, Communications and Government Relations at the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel: 050-690-9749.