Early childhood experiences lay the foundation for outcomes later in life. Policymakers in developing countries face a dual challenge of promoting access and quality in early childhood development (ECD) services, but evidence on how to manage this tradeoff is scarce. This paper evaluates two experiments to improve access and quality in early childhood development services in The Gambia. In the first experiment, new community-based early childhood development centers were introduced to randomly chosen villages that had no pre-existing structured ECD services. In the second experiment, a randomly assigned subset of existing ECD centers received intensive provider training to implement a new curriculum. We find no evidence that either intervention improved average levels of child development. However, children from more advantaged households developed less when exposed to community-based ECD centers, while more disadvantaged children benefitted from provider training in existing ECD centers. These results underscore the importance of ECD program quality relative to the home environment in the development of pre-school aged children.
Todd Pugatch is an Assistant Professor of Economics in the School of Public Policy at Oregon State University. He is a development economist focusing on education, labor markets, and migration. Much of his recent work evaluates efforts to improve school quality in Sub-Saharan Africa, such as through student fee elimination, teacher training, and teacher salary increases. Previous work examined school-to-work transitions in South Africa and the effect of border enforcement on Mexican immigration to the United States. He earned his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Michigan in 2011.