Rich Culture, Poor Markets: Why Do Latino Parents Forgo Preschooling
by Bruce Fuller, Costanza Eggers-Pierola, Susan D. Holloway & Xiaoyan Liang — 1996
Debates rage in the K-12 sector over the probable effects of school-choice programs often with scarce evidence of their institutional dynamics and local effects. Meanwhile, the preschool sector has become a lively and sizable mixed market of public and private organizations, financed by parental fees and over $6 billion in public funds each year. The sector offers an intriguing setting for studying the long-term access and equity effects that result from liberalized market conditions. This article focuses on the considerably lower proportion of Latino parents who select a formal preschool or child-care center for their three to five-year-old youngsters. We empirically focus on the influence of ethnicity, maternal education, family structure, and preliteracy practices on parents' propensity to select preschools and center-based programs. After controlling for the effects of maternal employment and household income, we find that children across all ethnic groups are less likely to enter preschools when they are younger (age three, not four-five years), when a father or a nonparent adult resides in the household, when the mother has low school attain- ment, and when children’s books are less evident in the household. Latino families are distinguished, in part, by these family characteristics; in addition, the negative relationship between Latino status and nonselection of a preschool persists after accounting for these effects. We then report initial qualitatiue evidence, revealing clear cultural conflicts that may discourage Latinos?use of preschools. We discuss the importance of understanding how ethnic variation in family-structure and cultural preferences regarding child rearing interact with secular conceptions of liberalized markets.
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