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The Role of Planning Skills in the Income–Achievement Gap


  • The data for this study are from the Study of Early Child Care Research Network supported by NICHD through a cooperative agreement that calls for scientific collaboration between the grantees and the NICHD staff. Partial support for this article came from the W.T. Grant Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Network on Socioeconomic Status and Health, and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, 5RC2MD00467. We thank Stephen Hamilton for critical feedback on earlier drafts of this manuscript.


The pervasive income–achievement gap has been attributed in part to deficiencies in executive functioning (EF). The development of EF is related to children's planning ability, an aspect of development that has received little attention. Longitudinal data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development study of early child care show that early childhood poverty (1 and 24 months) is significantly related to fifth grade, math, and reading achievement (n = 1,009). The ability to plan in Grade 3, indexed by the Tower of Hanoi task, mediates the income–achievement gap in math and to a lesser extent in reading. IQ was incorporated as a statistical control throughout.