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Conceptualizing and examining the impact of neighbourhoods on the school readiness of kindergarten children in British Columbia Lapointe, Vanessa R.

Abstract

In the current research project, the relationship between neighbourhood environment and school readiness was investigated. To support this investigation, the school readiness and neighbourhood effects literatures were reviewed. To measure neighbourhood environment, data from the 2001 Canadian Census were used, while school readiness was measured using the Early Development Instrument (EDI). EDI data were collected for kindergarten children across B.C. in the school years 2000-2001 through 2004-2005 by the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP). For the first portion of the current study, a hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) approach to data analysis was taken given the complex structure of the data (children nested within neighbourhoods). Results from this study suggest that neighbourhood environment is related to children’s school readiness outcomes as measured by the EDI. Specifically, all five EDI domains and the EDI Total score were significantly predicted by between two and eight of 13 neighbourhood variables that were conceptually grouped into eight categories accounting for family structure, income, education, aboriginal status, language, labour force occupations, employment rates, and domestic work. Following these analyses, the second portion of the current study involved an exploratory analysis of neighbourhoods where children had performed better or worse than expected on the EDI (according to the HLM models) to better understand what differentiates these neighbourhoods from those where children had performed according to the model predictions. Important patterns included differences in residential stability, proportion of immigrants and lone-parents, employment rates, types of occupations and industries, amount of domestic work, male-female income discrepancy, and income levels. Overall, three themes emerged from this study that suggest neighbourhood-level sources of social wealth: the importance of neighbourhood culture, stability, and heterogeneity in promoting better school readiness outcomes for children. The strengths and limitations of the current research project were discussed, and formulations regarding areas for future research were presented.

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