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From preschool to politics: Early socialization in Tulsa


Voting in an election can be a complicated process, requiring both knowledge and motivation. According to the “primacy principle” and theories of “human capital formation,” early childhood learning has the potential to shape attitudes and behaviors later in life. If correct, these theories suggest that early childhood education could help develop skills necessary for voting. Using data from Tulsa Public Schools (TPS), we identify 4,033 students who entered kindergarten in the fall of 2006. Approximately half of those students were enrolled in universal pre-K the year before. We then identify which of these students registered to vote and actually voted in the two years after they turned 18. Using propensity score weighting, we find that students enrolled in pre-K were more likely to register to vote and to vote in an election than those not enrolled in pre-K. We explore potential paths through which pre-K might increase civic participation. We find that pre-K increases both cognitive and socio-emotional skills and that an increase in these skills is associated with an increase in registering to vote (cognitive) and actual voting (cognitive and socio-emotional). (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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