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Volume 22 Issue 5 (September 2019), Pages

Evolution of the wealth gap in child development and mediating pathways: Evidence from a longitudinal study in Bogota, Colombia

Abstract Large gaps in cognition and language on the Bayley‐III between the top and bottom household wealth quartiles in 1,330 children aged 6–42 months in a representative sample of low‐ and middle‐income families in Bogota were previously shown. Maternal education and the home environment mediated these wealth effects, whereas height‐for‐age mediated a small amount of the language deficit only. At ages 6–8 years, we relocated 72% of the children and assessed their IQ on the WISC‐V, school achievement, and behavior to investigate the evolution of the wealth gaps and potential mediators. The wealth gap in IQ at 6–8 years was significantly larger than that in a factor combining Bayley‐III language and cognition at 6–42 months; whereas the gap in achievement was larger but not significantly. Moreover, in cross‐sectional analysis, the IQ gap increased from 6 to 8 years reaching over 1 SD. In contrast, the gap in behavior was not significant in either childhood stage. Parental education and early home environment remained major mediators of the wealth gap in IQ and achievement at 6–8 years; later home environment and attending private education also had an effect; and early height‐for‐age was no longer significant. The home environment partly mediated the effect of parental education on wealth. All mediators combined explained most of the variance in the wealth gap; the remaining gaps being not significant. Results highlight the importance of the early home environment and suggest that interventions focusing on that should have long‐term benefits. Also, continued intervention through to 8 years may be desirable. A video abstract of this article can be viewed at https://youtu.be/_U53iXNww3I.

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