Does preschool attendance matter for the urban-rural cognition gap of middle school students?

ZHENG Lei1 WENG Qiuyi2 GONG Xin3

(1.Faculty of Education and Capital Institute for Economics of Education, Beijing Normal University)
(2.National Institute of Education Sciences)
(3.School of Education, Central China Normal University)

【Abstract】Cognitive abilities have great impact on individuals’ socioeconomic status. However, evidence of the effect of preschool education on urban-rural cognition gap from large-scale sample is almost nonexistent. Based on a nationally representative dataset from China Education Panel Survey, this study filled this gap by presenting evidence of significant cognition gap between urban and rural middle school students. We found a consistent positive relationship between preschool attendance and cognitive ability in Grade 7 and Grade 9, based on ordinary least squares and propensity score matching estimation. Results based on Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition suggest that the differences in preschool education experience between urban and rural students account for 28% to 44% of such cognition gap between group. We also simulated the intervention effects of preschool education development policy on narrowing urban-rural cognition gap.

【Keywords】 educational equity; urban-rural gap; preschool education; early childhood development; cognition gap;


【Funds】 Youth Project of National Social Science Fund of China (15CSH011) General Project of Beijing Social Science Fund Research Base (18JDJYB004) Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (SKZZB2015012) 2018 Comprehensive Special Funds for Discipline Construction of Faculty of Education, Beijing Normal University (2018QNJS002)

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    [1]. (1) Similar documents refer to the impact of preschool education on infants and children under the age of 10 as “short-term effect” and the impact on children over the age of 10 as “long-term effect” (Gong et al., 2016). [^Back]

    [2]. (2) In response to the revisions by reviewers, we have retrieved two related studies: Zhao et al. (2017) and Jiang (2017) both use CEPS data to find that there is a significant gap in cognitive ability between urban and rural students, but these two studies have not examined the contribution of preschool education to the cognition gap. [^Back]

    [3]. (3) For details, please refer to r=projects/view&id=72810330 [^Back]

    [4]. (4) According to the variables derived from the types of student household registration provided by CEPS, “non-agricultural household registration” and “resident household registration” are merged into “non-agricultural household registration” to define “urban students” in this study; and the holder of “agricultural household registration” is defined as “rural students.” [^Back]

    [5]. (5) The sample size is 15,191 when analyzing the difference of kindergarten duration between urban and rural areas and the effect of kindergarten duration on cognitive ability. Since there are many missing values of this variable and the analysis of this variable is not the focus of this paper, we still use other variables without missing values as the qualification of sample in the analysis of most problems in this paper. [^Back]

    [6]. (6) In order to save space, only variables with statistically significant differences are briefly explained here. Detailed results are available upon request. [^Back]

    [7]. (7) The results here cannot be understood as the cognition gap of seventh-grade students will widen after two years (Grade 9), because the cross-sectional data are used here, the ninth-grade and seventh-grade students are not the same group of people, and strict tests require tracking data. Thank the reviewers for their suggestions. [^Back]

    [8]. (8) In order to save space, we did not report the inspection results in the eastern and central regions. [^Back]

    [9]. (9) In the CEPS survey, regardless of how many years of preschool education children have received or how old they enter the kindergarten, they are counted as “having received preschool education.” Therefore, the proportion of children have received preschool education according to this calculation is higher than the common gross kindergarten enrollment rate in national statistics. In order to save space, the gap between urban and rural areas in the eastern and central parts of the country has been omitted. [^Back]

    [10]. (10) To save space, the results of these models are omitted. [^Back]

    [11]. (11) Comparing the regression results of the two grades, the preschool education has obviously smaller effect on the urban sample in Grade 9 than the urban sample in Grade 7. We found that in the national urban sample in Grade 9, the average value of those variables with positive effects on cognition is higher than that in the sample in Grade 7, and the average value of those variables with negative effects on cognition is relatively lower. The positive effect of preschool education caused by this distribution is obviously offset by other variables in the Grade 9 sample. There are also differences in the distribution of rural samples across the country among grades, but there are relatively few variables with differences. In addition, in the rural sample in Grade 9, the distribution of some variables is conducive to cognition, while the distribution of some variables is opposite. Therefore, although the effect of preschool education in the rural sample in Grade 9 is smaller than that in the rural sample in Grade 7 , the difference is not very large. [^Back]

    [12]. (12) In order to save space, the prediction results of propensity score are omitted. [^Back]

    [13]. (13) These factors occur after the preschool education choice behavior, so they cannot be regarded as strict “reasons.” But we have reason to speculate that these factors may not change much with time. [^Back]

    [14]. (14) Most of the samples in the western rural areas in Grade 7 did not match successfully. Of the 1111 samples, 51 did not match successfully. [^Back]

    [15]. (15) To save space, the test results of data balance will be omitted. [^Back]

    [16]. (16) In addition to maintaining the distribution characteristics of various influencing factors in the model, it is also necessary to assume that the current proportion of urban and rural students remains unchanged. Thank the reviewers for pointing this out. [^Back]

    [17]. (17) The p-values of these coefficients are all 0.000. In order to save space, the specific results will be omitted. [^Back]


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This Article


CN: 11-1100/C

Vol 34, No. 03, Pages 122-145+244

May 2019


Article Outline


  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Literature review
  • 3 Research methods
  • 4 Results and discussions
  • 5 Conclusion
  • Footnote