Do neighbourhoods influence the readiness for school among kindergarten children in Hamilton, Ontario? A fixed effects analysis
There is a significant body of research examining the relationship between neighbourhood characteristics and child health and well-being and the mechanisms through which such effects may operate. Research investigating neighbourhood effects on children is based on the notion that individuals and families who live in a neighbourhood collectively create a social context and share a physical and institutional context that influences the developing child. In this paper, we investigate the relationship between individual and neighbourhood socioeconomic characteristics and kindergarten children's readiness for school among all urban-dwelling children in Hamilton, Ontario in 2018. This research is made possible by population-wide collection of the Early Development Instrument (EDI) in the province of Ontario, and the population data we analyze consists of teacher ratings of 4,196 eligible children on the EDI. The EDI consists of five sub-scales: i) emotional maturity, ii) social competence, iii) physical health & well-being, iv) language and cognitive development and v) communication skills and general knowledge. Using fixed effects modeling techniques and 2016 census data for 119 Hamilton neighbourhoods (n=119) we modeled individual/family-level age, sex, language and a geographic proxy for family income; and neighbourhood-level unemployment rate, median income, educational attainment, population stability, lone-parent families and language against EDI subscales. Findings suggest that individual-level age, sex and family income are significantly associate with all five domains, and individual-language is only significantly associated with the language and cognitive development and communication skills and general knowledge domains. At the neighbourhood level, education is associated with higher EDI scores across all domains, while residential stability is positively associated with physical health & well-being and communication skills and general knowledge. Finally, the relationship between individual-level language and the language and cognitive development and communication skills and general knowledge domains varies in strength across neighbourhoods. Overall, the results suggest that there are opportunities to target neighbourhood-level policies in ways that can redress inequities and optimize early child development.
Katherine Smith, Research Coordinator, Dept. of Health, Aging & Society, McMaster University
Marisa Young, Associate Professor, Dept. of Sociology, McMaster University
Magdalena Janus, Professor, Dept. of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University
James R. Dunn, Professor, Dept. of Health, Aging and Society, McMaster University