Inequality at home: The evolution of class-based gaps in young children’s home environments and pre-school age skills from 1986 to 2012

Project Summary:

Researchers increasingly point out the importance of a child’s early years for the development of skills that will help them succeed later in life. Much of this scholarship focuses on the importance of cognitive skills, such as reading, but the development of non-cognitive skills, such as motivation and interpersonal skills, is also critical. These five researchers will look at how inequality across home environments affects the development of these non-cognitive skills. This channel could have major consequences for the life prospects of children, as economic inequality across families may be magnified for the next generation. Understanding these differences is vital to improving the prospects for disadvantaged children and the growth prospects for our economy.


Ariel Kalil, a member of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth's Research Advisory Board, is a Professor in the Harris School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago. At the Harris School, she directs the Center for Human Potential and Public Policy and co-directs the Behavioral Insights and Parenting Lab. She also holds an appointment as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Stavanger, Norway, in the Department of Business Administration. She is a developmental psychologist who studies economic conditions, parenting, and child development. Her current research examines the historical evolution of income-based gaps in parenting behavior and children’s cognitive and non-cognitive skills. At the Behavioral Insights and Parenting Lab, she is leading a variety of field experiments designed to strengthen parental engagement and child development in low-income families using tools drawn from behavioral economics and neuroscience.

Kalil received her Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the University of Michigan. Before joining the Harris School faculty in 1999, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan's National Poverty Center. Kalil has received the William T. Grant Foundation Faculty Scholars Award, the Changing Faces of America's Children Young Scholars Award from the Foundation for Child Development, the National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship, and in 2003 she was the first-ever recipient of the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) Award for Early Research Contributions.

Selected Publications