Language Gap in Rich, Poor Kids Begins Earlier Than Thought

Stanford study finds differences at 18 months
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 22, 2013 5:22 PM CDT
Language Gap in Rich, Poor Kids Begins Earlier Than Thought

A Stanford study finds that kids from low-income families begin falling behind their richer peers in language development earlier than thought, reports the New York Times. The study found clear differences at 18 months, with kids in the higher-income families able to identify simple words a lot faster. (A previous study decades ago spotted differences at age 3.) One new yardstick: It wasn't until the lower-income kids were 2 years old that they could match the speed of the richer 18-month-olds. That's presumably because the richer parents were more often talking to their children.

"These disparities are equivalent to a six-month gap between infants from rich and poor families in both language processing skills and vocabulary knowledge," the lead researcher told the Standford Report when the study surfaced last month. "What we're seeing here is the beginning of a developmental cascade, a growing disparity between kids that has enormous implications for their later educational success and career opportunities." The results will likely come into play in the DC debate over the funding of prekindergarten programs, notes the Times. (More language stories.)

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